Trust & Safety Blog

Beware the 'White Van Scam'

White -van

Ever heard the expression, “if it’s too good to be true then it probably is”?

If you think you’ve scored yourself a sweet deal but find that thought echoing in the back of your mind, you might want to listen to it.

Unfortunately there are all sorts of dastardly characters out there who have anything but honourable intentions and one example of their scams is the infamous ‘White Van Scam’.

This scam isn’t anything new and has been around long before the internet came along. However, now that we have all made the shift online, this scam has followed suit.

What is the ‘White Van Scam’?

This scam involves someone selling high-end electronic goods with fantastic specifications at crazy cheap prices. These goods were originally sold out of the back of dodgy white vans, as opposed to online, hence the name.

Unfortunately the product isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and is nothing but a let-down. You’ll have parted with your hard earned cash and will only have a pile of junk to show for it.

How do you spot this scam?

The good news is that there are a few tell-tale signs that you should look out for:

  • It will often be an electronic item. It is super easy to talk these up and everyone is always after them.
  • The item is likely to be a brand that you have never heard of.
  • The product may be marketed as the latest and greatest from some far reaching corner of the globe and you’ll often find a swanky website that goes with it, singing its praises. Unfortunately the website is just about as legitimate as the product itself.
  • The scammers may try to draw you in with a drastic price cut. You’ll be made to think that you are about to score the deal of the century, getting that new stereo for $500 instead of its original $3,000 price tag.

 If the item you are looking at shows these signs, your alarm bells should start ringing.

So what can I do?

Simply put, knowledge, common sense and your gut instinct is your best defence here.

Do your homework on the product that is being sold. Scout out some reviews online. Check if you can find the product on more than one site. Do the search results show if the product is known to be used in this scam?

As always, if you come across something that just doesn’t feel right, don’t buy it.

Be sure to loop in our Policing team via the Community Watch button at the bottom of every listing, if you have any concerns.

If you want to know more about the other kinds of scams out there, check out our handy online scam guide

Creative Commons image used courtesy raver-mikey on Flickr. 

Tickets to the Cricket World Cup may not be listed on Trade Me

Cricket -fan -blackcaps

The ICC 2015 Cricket World Cup starts on 14 February, with 23 matches being held across New Zealand. This is one of the world’s biggest sporting events and no doubt there will be a late clamour for tickets when it’s known which teams will play each other in the quarter finals and beyond.

Just like the 2011 Rugby World Cup, this event is subject to the Major Events Management Act (MEMA). The effect of this for Trade Me users means that there are special rules applied to the sale of tickets to the tournament’s matches and un-official merchandise.


The MEMA allows for tickets to be only resold at face value (i.e. their original sale price) or less, but not a dollar over. This is to avoid concerns around scalping.

However, Trade Me has taken the decision to not allow the sale of ANY tickets to ICC Cricket World Cup matches, even when offered at face value.

This is due to difficulties around ensuring tickets are being sold at the correct price, particularly with various categories of tickets available and category prices varying from match to match.

This applies to all matches, whether they are being played in NZ or Australia.


The MEMA also seeks to protect the event from what is known as ambush marketing and specifically disallows the sale of products that have not been officially sanctioned by the tournament organisers.

Under MEMA, certain words related to the ICC Cricket World Cup cannot be used in conjunction with the sale of items that are related to cricket. Here’s the official list of words that cannot be used in listings.

It’s also worth remembering that selling fake or counterfeit merchandise is, of course, illegal and not allowed on Trade Me either.

Selling genuine gear from prior World Cup events is okay as long as the item is described as accurately as possible. So if you have Dipak Patel’s shirt laying around…

While we’re talking all things cricket, this is not a bad time to remind members that only genuine Beige Brigade clothing and equipment can be described as being Beige Brigade – they may act like rabid fans but they have actually trademarked their name!

Photo of a keen cricket fan used with permission of Beige Brigade.

Don’t mess with the VIN

Vin -number -kamaz

Got an old dunger of a car and planning on selling off its parts? Thinking you can sell the VIN tags? Not on Trade Me, mate. 

Believe it or not, this practice is actually against the law under the Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Standards Compliance 2002. Any tampering with the VIN tags is illegal and therefore the tags cannot be sold on Trade Me.

What the heck’s a VIN?

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique 17-character code that identifies your vehicle. The VIN is used to combat fraud and for the NZTA to identify a vehicle for registration purposes.

The VIN can be found stamped into the body of your car (often the firewall), stamped on a metal plate fixed to the body of your vehicle or etched into the rear window of the vehicle.

If a vehicle has been identified by a Transport Service Delivery Agent (TSDA) as having the VIN tags tampered with, they must report this to the police and the NZTA. This means that your vehicle can be blocked from receiving a Warrant of Fitness, making it un-roadworthy.

Hang on a minute, what if I’m selling my rear windows and the VIN has been etched into the glass?

This is fine and can be listed on Trade Me, however it’s probably wise to mention the etching in your listing description for transparencies' sake.

The moral of the story here is to ensure that any fitting/removal/transferring of VIN tags is performed by a TSDA to ensure your vehicle can stay on the road

Any listings found to be offering vehicle identities for sale on the site will be removed.

We also note that we have a strong working relationship with NZTA who have demonstrated a keen interested in such listings.

Creative Commons image used courtesy serialnumberplate on Flickr. 

Agricultural compounds and Trade Me

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In today’s world, we are consistently coming up with new mixtures and tonics to assist us in our daily endeavours. However, what we don’t realise, is that many of these mixtures and remedies can be detrimental to our own health, international trade, and even our country’s own agriculture. This is exactly the reason why there are very strict regulations around these compounds in New Zealand.

To ensure they don’t pose a threat to us, the Ministry of Primary Industries have put an Act in place that monitors and controls the use, sale, manufacture and importation of such products.

This means our sellers need to know what they’re selling and importing into the country. We know this can be a bit complicated, and it’s not always clear if something you’re selling falls under this Act or not – we’re here to help!

I’m a seller, what do I need to do?

The first thing that needs to be determined is whether you have a product that is classed as an agricultural compound under the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997. The starting point of this would be to know what the definition of an agricultural compound under this legislation actually is.

The definition of “agricultural compound” makes reference to:

Any substance, mixture of substances, or biological compound, used or intended for use in the direct management of plants and animals, or to be applied to the land, place or water on or in which plants and animals are managed, for the purposes of:

  • managing or eradication pests, including vertebrate pests
  • maintaining, promoting, or regulating plant or animal productivity and performance or reproduction
  • fulfilling special nutritional requirements
  • diagnosing the condition of animals
  • preventing or treating conditions of animals
  • enhancing the effectiveness of an agricultural compound used for the treatment of plants and animals
  • marking animals.

Veterinary medicine means any substance, mixture of substances, or biological compound used or intended for use in the direct management of an animal.

Essentially, what this means for you as a seller, is that if you have a product that falls into the category of agricultural compounds, it will need to be registered and authorised before being allowed to be sold in New Zealand.

How do I know whether a product is registered or not?

There is a register that is accessible by the public. Have a look to see if your product is there or not. If it’s not on the register, you will need to get the product registered before being able to sell in New Zealand.

While the Ministry of Primary Industries do not consult with you throughout the registration process, there is a list of consultants on their website that can help you out.

When it comes to importing products of this nature for pets and animals, it’s vital they’re registered here before hand. If they are not registered it is likely that they won’t be able to be brought into the country, let alone listed on Trade Me.

If you are thinking about selling agricultural compounds, or if you are intending to import items for sale in New Zealand and sell them, please ensure that you are across all of this very important information.

For more information check out the MPI website.

Novelty cigarette lighters banned from Trade Me

Train -novelty -lighter

Novelty lighters may look funky but it’s not all fun and games as they can and often do cause real harm if they’re not up to standard.

Currently, many novelty lighters fall outside of the mandatory product safety standard applicable to cigarette lighters. This safety standard only applies to cigarette lighters and some novelty lighters that are disposable, or refillable lighters with a customs value of less than $3.50. Novelty lighters are any lighter that produce a flame and are designed to look like another object eg. a cellphone shaped lighter or a wizard wand with detachable tip and wizard sound effects.

Unfortunately there’s a long list of reported injuries relating to novelty lighters, many of these happening to kids given their toy-like appeal.

Trade Me cares about the safety of our members and their families and we’ve chatted with a number of key stakeholders about the sale of novelty lighters on the site. We reckon safety comes first so we’ve made the decision to no longer allow the sale of novelty lighters on Trade Me from 15 January 2015.

We’ll get in touch with current and past sellers of novelty lighters about our decision to ban these products. There’ll also be a grace period up until January 15 2015 to allow for sellers to get up to speed on our new policy. After this date, Trade Me will withdraw all novelty lighters still live on the site and remove any further listings made for novelty lighters.

If you’d like more info about the mandatory safety standard check it out.

Creative Commons image used courtesy Joe Haupt on Flickr.