The great Gumtree G/S rip-off

Before you say ‘I told you so’, I know that what I did was stupid … I’ve bought and sold bikes on Gumtree many times over and always err on the side of caution when buying second hand. The problem with liking classic bikes is that they are all second hand and you need to move quite quickly if you find something you like.

Last Saturday I found myself browsing Gumtree and came upon an ad for a 1980’s BMW G/S for sale in Johannesburg for R30 000. She was by no means perfect, but having sold my Enfield a few weeks back she looked worth a punt. I was in Jo’burg with work at the time so quickly sent in an inquiry via email and followed up with a text message. Sure enough, a hour or so later I got the call from the owner.

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It transpires that they actually operate a engine rebuild business out of Springbok and not Johannesburg, but the bike is there and it was the advertisers fathers bike, had been sitting for 9 months and the engine rebuilding mechanics have fired her up but she is idling badly and they think the fuel lines have been contaminated and she needs a bit of a strip down and service – hence the R30 000 asking price. This looked like a reasonable deal – not ‘too good to be true’ – average running G/S bikes can nowadays sell in the region of R50 000 so even if she needed ±R20 000 worth of work to get her going I’d be sitting on a rough break even point. I didn’t like that I could not see the bike myself, but the owner would supply me with a pro-forma invoice from their business with all the details, VIN, registration copy of their ID, anything I wanted etc.

The seller also had a used engine being shipped to Tokai in a few days time and could squeeze the bike on if I wanted to pay a delivery fee – everything was now fitting into place nicely.

So I did my due diligence … I Googled the name of the company, as well as the person I was dealing with – search terms like ‘Medina engines scam’ ‘BMW R80 GS fraud’ ‘Springbok used vehicle scam’ and came up with nothing. I then did a reverse image search on the pictures from the advert to see if they had been taken from another similar advert – again it looked ok. I then did a search of the VIN number – luckily BMW identification is quite simple – I did a search and got back a return for 1983 R80 G/S as advertised, the only thing being that it was listed as originally being dark blue and not white as it appeared. I did a bit more research and noted that the tank had a ‘basic’ graphic applied on the side. The ‘Basic’ G/S was released in the 90’s as the old airheads were being phased out, but they had blue frames (not black) so I assumed the tank had maybe been replaced and  the bike had been rebuilt or renovated at some stage.

the VIN data from BMWbins

the VIN data from

So the advertised bike was a real G/S, I had an ID document of the seller, a company invoice, they’d been on Gumtree since 2011 and I was thinking that the deal looked good. I told them to deliver the bike directly to Kingtek for a service – the seller even went so far as to look up the address of Kingtek and add it into the invoice – surely if this was a scam they’d not be worried about where the bike was going to be delivered to?

Now comes the clincher … They’re closing for business at lunchtime – so can I please pay the deposit via cellphone transfer and then they’ll get the bike loaded an on it’s way to Cape Town. The deposit was R5000 and I was to pay the rest as soon as the bike was delivered – we were both taking a risk on the sale.

Giddy with the images in my head of trailing around the back roads of Cape Town on my new bike, and convinced by the deep level of detail supplied by the seller – Moegamat Alli, I paid the deposit, and as I’m sure you guessed earlier, unfortunately that was the last I ever heard of Moegamat. I’ve always been told to never buy anything without seeing it in the flesh first – and now I know why. I guess I’m lucky he wasn’t selling any magic beans.


The invoice

The invoice