How to identify scams and protect yourself from online fraud
Trade Me is very proud that we are New Zealand’s most successful online market place. As I write this this there are 2,378,533 live listings on the site being looked at by 117,067 members and it’s only 10am! There will be another 600,000 of them by the time the day is done.
Those members are looking to make a great deal or find a real bargain. Unfortunately a few members might find themselves being taken for a ride by an overseas based scammer. We do our best to keep this kind of activity off the site but the reality is that some scammers are successful. The reality is that ANYONE can be scammed, it doesn’t matter how smart you are – unless you know what to look for.
Here’s an epic length read on various scams that are out there, how to spot them and how to protect yourself.
To the uninitiated, the internet is a big pond where sharks roam seeking to trick internet users into handing over their personal details so they can dine on their bank accounts.
This is commonly known as phishing – the spelling is a play on the traditional sport of fishing but the principle is the same – the scammer (shark) will set up his ‘lures’ so that unwary internet users will be ‘phished’ and tricked into sharing confidential information that can be used to conduct further scams or fraud.
The scammers’ lures are legitimate-looking emails that appear to come from websites or companies, like Trade Me or your bank. The emails try to elicit information from the reader - like usernames or passwords. They’ll often do this by asking you to confirm your details or click a link to login. If you click such a link, you’ll be directed to enter those details into a fake website and the scam will begin. Never sharing your Trade Me password will prevent against such phishing attempts. Being mindful of how you use your credit card is equally important.
This video from Netsafe explains a few things with a bit of a tirade from General Phishinscam.
Same username as your email
Trade Me members who have usernames similar to their email addresses should consider themselves warned that this makes them an easy target for cheeky online scammers.
The username scam involves a scammer contacting a member about an auction they were outbid on by guessing their email address and sending them an email suggesting the deal had fallen through and they could buy the item. They then take you ‘off site’ and you can kiss your money goodbye as the goods never turn up because obviously they were not the seller.
The ‘Flatmate Wanted’ Scam
You have advertised online for a new flatmate, preferably one that has good personal hygiene and boom! You get someone from overseas who is moving to NZ and wants to live with you and here’s the bond money. Except they paid you too much and would you please kindly transfer the difference via Western Union? The scam is you are being used as a mule and the bank is going to take the bond money out of your account – and the money you sent overseas as well, leaving you out of pocket. Worst. Flatmate. Ever.
The ‘Freight Forward’ Scam
It’s very similar to the flatmate wanted trick. The freight forwarding scammer poses as a genuine buyer that’s interested in buying your vehicle. Their intention is to trick you into transferring them your hard earned dollars to cover the cost of vehicle shipping before you’ve actually received money from them (not that you will ever receive any).
The ‘make money while you sleep!’ scam
Sometimes job vacancies appear to offer the easiest ways to make your money. Will you be making money whilst you sleep? Working from home but earning hundreds of dollars an hour?
Job scam listings are often highly enticing and in today’s economic climate it can be easy to fall victim. The saying “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” couldn’t fit more than it does when it comes to job scams. Treat listings that offer these sweet nothings with some heavy critique.
Some scammers even advertise for 'administrative assistants' whose role is to assist with the wire transfer of what is in reality, stolen money.
Malware software designed to conduct malicious actions on your computer. It is most commonly designed to make money for digital criminals. This can be through stealing information, modifying or erasing information, and disrupting access. This includes ransoming your computer for a fee.
The ‘take this online survey and we’ll send you free stuff’ scam
We’ve seen them start to crop up. The survey asks some basic questions simply to appear legitimate, then offers the user a 'reward' for free - all they have to do is enter their shipping details and credit card details to pay for the shipping.
Once the scammers have hold of this information there's a lot they can do. They may charge the credit card under the guise of a legitimate company or they may on-sell the credit card details to another cyber-criminal.
The ‘I’ve found my true love online and he needs money for airline ticket!’ scam
You might not know but Trade Me runs the ‘FindSomeone’ dating website. We think it’s a fun and safe place to help Kiwi singles find someone special – so much so, we’d be happy if our mothers used it.
The team does a lot of work behind the scenes to keep the site safe and rewarding to use, but unfortunately there are still overseas based scammers who try to take advantage of Kiwis’ generally trusting nature.
Here’s a basic guide that offers some ideas to think about when using dating sites
How can I protect myself from these scammers?
Aside from knowing about how to spot the tell tail signs as a above, Trade Me has three points of guidance which we think will help.
1. Never send money overseas
You should never pay by Western Union, telegraphic transfer, bank transfer or overseas money order in order to complete a trade you made on Trade Me. Everyone on Trade Me must have a New Zealand bank account.
You don’t need to pay via PayPal, we don’t have a ‘shipping agent’ based in the UK, and no one from Hong Kong wants to buy your 15 year old Mazda for thousands of dollars over your asking price.
It’s OK to trade with International Sellers that have been accepted by Trade Me as meeting our terms and conditions.
2. Only complete trades through Trade Me
If you get a text or email from the ‘seller’ of a listing and you haven’t actually won it, and they are offering the item to you for a knock down price, most likely the item doesn’t actually exist and the offer is a con. That’s why we warn people about the dangers of posting their contact details on Trade Me, as it presents an easy ‘in’ for scammers to contact you directly.
3. Pay via Pay Now (credit card)
If it is offered by the seller, consider using our Pay Now payment tool. There are some inherent protections in paying with your credit card, especially being able to get your money back if the goods don’t turn up (known as a charge back). Also we cover sellers if a buyers attempts to use a stolen credit card – it’s win win for all parties.
Help! I have been scammed because of a trade!
Get in contact with us as soon as you can. If it’s not too late we may be able to help.