A quick-thinking Napier couple avoided falling victim to an online scam targeting people selling cars.

They were contacted by a person posing as an offshore buyer, and say they want others to know what to look out for.

The couple, who did not want to be named, listed a car on Trade Me late last week and within half an hour had a text from a four digit number with an email address to set up the sale.

The man had sold cars on Trade Me in the past and said he had been contacted by legitimate buyers via text and was at first quite excited to get the exchange under way.


"I received the text message which asked for email contact, so I sent them an email and they responded, introducing themselves by name and asking for email contact only. They asked if there was anything wrong with the car and for the final price as they were looking for a bargain."

The man said there were emails back and forth during which the person said they could only transfer the money via PayPal as they were living overseas. "I wasn't really interested in paying with PayPal but I was still thinking it could be legitimate so kept emailing them."

He said the person insisted on using PayPal and gave advice on how to set up an account.

"By this point we were started to think something about it wasn't right so my wife googled the email address and straight away it came up with this scam website."

The website lists known scams in New Zealand, many of which are similar to the situation the couple was in. "From the stories I read on the website they eventually ask you to transfer money somewhere to export the car before the rest of the funds are released."

He said it was lucky for them it did not get that far. "I copied the link to the scams website into an email to this person and then never heard back from them."

Only days later the couple received another text from a four digit number with another email address, asking for them to get in touch.

The email addresses were thehippis20@gmail.com and lucylaw001@gmail.com.


The couple contacted the Hawke's Bay Today newspaper hoping to warn other Trade Me users about the potential risks.

"It's important people know what's going on and can be warned against scams like this. Some people might just see the money they can make from selling their cars and go for it."

Trade Me posted on their blog on September 6 after users reported an increase in these types of scams. "We've had recent reports of an increase in scammer activity where the scammers are trying to run the old text scam trick to get in touch with members pretending to be interested in buying or selling a car."

The post asked users to keep their wits about them when receiving texts about cars listed for sale. "The scammer might be trying to get you to send money overseas that they've managed to con out of someone else or get you to make an 'over-payment' for some service or other thereby scamming money off you directly."

It advised never to pay by Western Union, telegraphic transfer, bank transfer or overseas money order. "Everyone on Trade Me must have a New Zealand bank account so money transfers should be pretty straightforward. You don't need to pay via PayPal, we don't have a 'shipping agent' based in the UK, and no one from Malaysia wants to by your 12-year-old Maxima for a couple of thousands dollars over the asking price."