Scam targets Bay home seller

By Sonya Bateson

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Gaylene Hood received an email scam from man claiming to be an American soldier serving in Afghanistan. Photo/Joel Ford
Gaylene Hood received an email scam from man claiming to be an American soldier serving in Afghanistan. Photo/Joel Ford

Bay residents are being warned about a scam targeting people trying to sell their homes over the internet.

Pahoia woman Gaylene Hood had listed her home for sale on a number of websites and after she returned from a holiday to Thailand, found an email in her inbox asking about the property.

After corresponding with the prospective buyer, it became apparent to Mrs Hood that it was a scam.

The email claimed to be from a US war veteran named "Captain Benny Aarver", who was serving in Afghanistan and needed to buy property in New Zealand because of "security reasons".

Captain Aarver claimed to have 13.2 million after a deal made while serving in Iraq and promised to deliver the money in a box via a Red Cross plane. Mrs Hood said she had immediately decided, "you've got to be joking".

She contacted the Bay of Plenty Times because she said people desperate to sell their homes could be sucked in by such scams.

The police told her to get in touch with Scamwatch and a Scamwatch spokesman said it seemed to be the first stage of an upfront money-transfer scam.

"This scam takes many forms, you may have heard of the Nigerian scam, but has one common trait - victims are asked to pay money upfront before they can unlock their promised riches.

"The scammers claim that you are entitled to money or want your help to transfer funds; however there are "fees", like money-transfer costs, legal fees, or tax charges, which you must pay first. You won't receive any money and will lose what you've paid."

The spokesman said in this case, the interest in the property was a ruse and had Mrs Hood continued with the email exchange, it was likely she would have been asked for money at some point.

The spokesman said if an email appeared genuine at first glance, as in Mrs Hood's case, he advised a search for the scammer's name on the internet. It would often appear on message boards warning the public.

Chris Caldwell, managing director of online property website Homesell, said it had strict security measures, including restricting the number of emails able to be sent to property owners each day, to prevent such scams affecting customers.

A scammer had targeted a small number of Homesell customers when it had issues on its website for a few hours in July.

About three Bay people had reported being targeted by this scam via the Homesell website, triggering management to send a warning message to all people with properties listed on the site.

Trade Me head of trust and safety Jon Duffy said scams of this type had not been seen in its property listings, but it had appeared in vehicle listings.

Mr Duffy said affected people had been those who had published their contact details on the site, which went against the site's rules.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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