The "click to buy" instinct for online shopping this Christmas is best left to toys rather than tractors, warns one farming machinery association.
Netsafe and the Tractor and Machinery Association of New Zealand (TAMA) have both received reports of farmers paying for tractors advertised online, only to find the listing was a scam from a fake "cloned" website.
TAMA president Mark Hamilton-Manns said one South Island farmer had paid a deposit and transport costs for a tractor advertised online.
"Everything seemed all right, so he paid a 30 per cent deposit plus transport costs. Then the 'vendor' asked for additional transport costs. The buyer contacted the company named in the advert and found a fraudster had created a fake advert using the details of the genuine company and the machine they had previously sold. Only the phone number listed was that of the fraudster."
Another farmer was left facing a $20,000 bill for cleaning a second-hand mower imported from Europe after the vendor claimed to have cleaned it but biosecurity inspectors found foreign matter in the machines, Mr Hamilton-Manns said.
Managing director of Masterton firm Tulloch Farm Machines, John Tulloch, said people needed to think ahead when buying. "The big thing is support and backup for parts. They all break down, it doesn't matter what brand it is, and then where do you go if you've bought some obscure brand? You're in trouble."
More and more farming equipment was using computers, Mr Tulloch said. "You've still got to think about the support side of things. A lot of machinery is becoming more complicated than before and requires more backup. They [farmers] need people who know about them to trouble-shoot when they arrive."
Mr Tulloch, who is also a TAMA board member, said there were many factors involved in adding equipment to tractors, which made it better to buy closer to home.
"Arm heights -- if you don't get that right it will not allow a mower to 'float'. Or setting the PTO shaft so you don't get vibration down the drive line. When you buy secondhand from offshore the vendor isn't there to demonstrate how to use it -- often you don't even get the manual.
Wairarapa Machinery Services sales manager Teunis van der Put said most of their customers still preferred to come into the showroom.
"They know what they are getting -- especially if it's secondhand."
Netsafe digital project manager Chris Hails said a North Island farming equipment company had contacted them last week after discovering their website had been cloned by someone in Russia.
"Wherever people buy things online there's always a possibility that someone will have set up a site to scam."
"If it's a bargain price there's always possibly a reason why it's so cheap. It's looking before you leap."
Mr Hails said one tip for avoiding scams was to Google the serial number of the product to see what other websites it appeared on.
Buyers could also download photos from the website and do a reverse image search to find other sites that had used the same photo.
Netsafe was also able to help buyers conduct a "who is" search which tracked the ownership of the website's domain name, Mr Hails said.