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Freight forward scams: how to spot and avoid them

Selling a vehicle online? We'll show you what to look out for, to keep yourself safe freight forwarding scams.

By Trust and Safety 4 August 2023

Keep yourself safe from scammers when it comes time to sell your car.

Selling a car, bike, or boat isn't something that most of us do often – and sometimes it can be a bit daunting. When you're advertising online, it's important to be vigilant so you can protect yourself from scammers.

Always remember that when it comes to scams, anyone can be a victim – and it's never the victim's fault.

How does a freight forwarding scam work?

A freight forward scam involves a seller and a fake buyer. Here's what will usually happen:

  • A fake buyer (the scammer) will contact the seller through their ad. They'll want to buy the car right away, for the full asking price – without having seen it in person.
  • There'll usually be some elaborate back story about how they're based overseas for work, or for some other reason they can't view the car but are very keen to buy it. The car will need to be freighted to them, but they'll arrange this.
  • They'll send the seller a fake proof of payment (this might look like a PayPal receipt, or an internet banking confirmation). The amount they claim to have paid you will include the cost of freight – strange if they're the ones arranging the freight.
  • The scammer will then tell the seller that they need to pay the freight company, and provide details to do so. The catch is that the 'buyer' never paid the seller in the first place, there is no freight company, and the money is going to the scammer. The seller hasn't sold the car, and will likely never see the money again.

This might sound scary, but with our expert tips, you'll be able to spot these kinds of scams and keep yourself safe.

What to look out for

🚩 They want to pay the full asking price, without seeing the vehicle or goods.

Would you want to pay the full asking price, without seeing the vehicle? No, and most people wouldn't either.

🚩 They've sent you a text from a weird number

If their text has come from a strange number (e.g. 8222) or from an overseas phone number, watch out.

Bear in mind that

  • There are genuine buyers out there who have just recently arrived in Aotearoa, so an international number isn't necessarily a scammer.
  • An NZ number doesn't necessarily mean that they're not a scammer.

🚩 They've said they're currently overseas

It might be for their job as a marine biologist, at an oil rig, or in the army. Or there might be some emergency that's meant they've had to leave the country.

🚩 They want the vehicle shipped overseas

Big nope. All Trade Me users must be based in Aotearoa or Australia. If they want the car shipped overseas,

🚩 Payment method

Scammers will often insist on paying a way that's not common in Aotearoa – such as PayPal, Western Union, MoneyGram and the likes. And they'll say the freight needs to be paid this way too. Once you've sent money using one of these services, you'll never see it again.

If they're a legitimate buyer, there's generally no good reason they can't pay by simple bank transfer.

🚩 And the payment is fake

This is where a lot of people get lured in, because scammers are pros at making up fake payment receipts. If the money's not in your account, do nothing and don't engage with them any further.

What to do if you think you've spotted a scam

  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Get a second opinion from someone you trust.
  • If it's an email, forward it to
  • If it's a text, forward it to the Digital Safety team at the Department of Internal Affairs on 7727.

If you've fallen victim to a scammer, remember that it's not your fault, and don't be ashamed to ask for help.

Need help with a scam on Trade Me?
Visit our Help Centre to get in touch with our team.
Learn more


Trust and Safety
Trust and Safety