Thief poses as bike buyer - part of a growing trend?

Philip, a London cyclist and five-times bike theft victim, has shared the shocking story of the latest theft… One in which the thief posed as a buyer for his second-hand bike.

After listing his bike for sale on Facebook Marketplace at the tail end of December 2021, Philip received a message from an interested ‘buyer’ via Facebook Messenger. They arranged to meet at his home in Peckham, London.

Philip explained that the buyer arrived, didn’t knock on the door, but “waited outside and wanted me to bring the bike out. I have cameras in and at the back of the house so I thought it safer for him to come to the garden to see it.

In the garden, the thief proceeded to test the bike for size, but then pushed Philip out of the way and rode off…

“I felt stupid as looking back all the questions came to my head. Why not knock on the door? Why did such a young guy, shorter than me, want a large frame? Seemed genuine, well spoken, well dressed.”

Will this distressing experience change how Philip sells a bike in the future, or trusts others? It’s a type of theft he has never heard of before and will completely change how he sells a bike and “more than anything how they view it.”

Stolen Ride chatted to London bike mechanic, Julian

Who better to ask about this type of theft than a bike mechanic, to see what they have been hearing from the cycling community.

Julian, who works for Herne Hill Bicycles (Bicycle Nation) in London, shared his views and tips with Stolen Ride in the following interview.

1. Have you heard of bike thieves pretending to be buyers of bikes before?

Yes, it’s not uncommon for people to have a second Facebook account which holds little to no personal information so they would scam people out of their bikes.

Most of the scam attempts used to be run on Gumtree. A ‘buyer’ would send in a message with ‘want to buy’ subject, then a whole story unfolded on how the buyer is unable to move and he would gladly pay for the transportation.

The seller would be scammed out of the item including some pocket money, and by the time he would realise the transaction was a hoax, it would be too late.

2. As someone who works for a London bike shop, what advice would you give to someone trying to sell a second-hand bike?

On Facebook Marketplace, people need to pay attention to a few things. Always check the personal profile of the person who’s interested in buying. Too few friends, no personal public pictures, or no real name. All would indicate someone who’s really into covering their identity. And most of the time this is done so there would not be much to report to in case of a theft.

The thieves know exactly how the Met Police is investigating bike thefts. And if there isn’t a clear proof of the identity of the thief they would just close the case.

A growing trend

Sadly Philip’s experience is not the first Stolen Ride has heard of in recent months and there appears to be a small, but growing trend. One of which second-hand bike sellers need to be aware and cautious of. This applies to all online marketplaces.