Police are investigating allegations of an elaborate online car sales scam.

At least 16 Trade Me customers claim they have been left car-less and out of pocket despite paying a 50 per cent deposit to an Auckland-based "dealer" for cars he claims he is importing from Japan.

None ever received the cars they paid for.

Trade Me head of trust and safety Jon Duffy said the company had banned the man and some of his associates, but said he was still operating using other dealers' names.

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A notice posted on Trade Me's website on January 13 warns dealers not to do business with him and "never give this person access to your Trade Me account".

A police spokeswoman confirmed that police "are investigating several complaints in relation to this matter".

One Nelson-based Trade Me customer told the Herald on Sunday he paid a $2300 deposit to the man last October for a 2006 Suzuki Swift priced at $4999 plus on-road costs of $300 and $500 for mechanical repairs.

"I wished to treat my wife to an updated car following her completion of a three-year degree," he said.

He took out a loan to pay the deposit, but over the subsequent weeks the man gave him a succession of excuses for not delivering the car, the customer said.

"Eventually on December 19 I went up to Auckland. My full intent was to front the guy, pay him the money and drive away in the car," he said.

"I spent a very frustrating day at Auckland Airport because it became obvious there was no way he was going to see me."

The issue ruined the couple's Christmas.

"I work in a high-stress job so the Christmas holiday break is really important to me, so it's just added stress that we didn't need at this time of the year," the customer said.

An Auckland couple claimed they paid the man a $2800 deposit last March for a 2007 Nissan Tilda priced at $5603, but were told the car could not be delivered because it needed repairs.

"Month after month, it was still not repaired," the wife said.

"It's now repaired, but he offered a different car from what was advertised. It seems like he just doesn't have a car."

Another Auckland man responded to a Trade Me advertisement for a 2006 Toyota Ractis for his Wellington-based sister, who paid the man a $2750 deposit last September, he claimed. She too has still not received the car despite numerous calls and emails to multiple mobile numbers and Gmail addresses.

The man has used the names of at least two registered motor vehicle dealers and at least one business name, Kar Guru New Zealand, which is not registered with either the Companies Office or the Motor Vehicle Traders Register.

He did not give his surname to any of the three Trade Me customers who spoke to the Herald, and used at least two different first names.

In one case, he used the first name of a man who is a registered director of one of the registered companies. The director told the Herald that he bought a car from the man last August, and transferred the company to an associate of the man.

The director said he was not aware that the man had been allegedly impersonating him until the Herald told him, and he now planned to give a statement to the police.

"I'm really shocked," he said.

"On the Companies Office they still have my name. I have been calling [the man and his associate] multiple times to remove my name but they still haven't done it."

A man who answered one of the mobile numbers used by the dealer who is under investigation said he was not the person who sold the cars, but was involved in "the financing".

"I do know there were some financial issues," he said.

"There was an issue with the Japanese cars a few times, but I can assure you that the matter is being resolved and is being sorted out, probably this week."

Duffy said anyone selling a car on Trade Me should have the car in New Zealand.

"If the deal seems too good to be true then it probably is, legitimate vehicle traders don't typically ask for a 50 per cent deposit to help import the vehicle," he said.