A suspected Facebook scammer has been caught using a dead woman's photos for a fake profile.
Wellington woman Susana, who did not want her surname published, did a Google image search of the person's Facebook profile photo when she saw them pop up on the popular page Vic Deals advertising a TV. Vic Deals describes itself as "a free online trading and discussion forum for students and locals of Wellington".
"The profile looked a bit dodgy and after a quick Google search, I found out that the photos of the profile are those of a dead person. I replied to the post saying 'hey, keen on the TV, just a bit concerned that you seem to have died in 2012'," Susana said.
She sent the person a link to a Daily Mail story about young Montreal woman Myriam Ducre-Lemay, who died after her boyfriend ate a peanut butter sandwich and kissed her, unaware she had a deathly allergy to peanuts.
Photos of Ducre-Lemay on the site match those of the Facebook profile on Vic Deals.
After Susana called the person out, it appears the profile has been deleted.
"It's sad that people would do that only to scam others," she told the Herald.
She chose to Google the person's pictures as she'd heard many stories of people being scammed on Facebook.
"Probably I was a bit more naive some time ago, but, as I said, I have seen many people posting about them being victims of scams. It's just sad that people are doing these types of things.
"In Vic Deals it's mostly students ... everybody knows some students struggle - rents and food are so expensive. Why would you try to steal from them?
"If we all were kinder and nicer to one another things would be different."
Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker said they didn't often hear of scammers stealing the photos of dead people for their fake profiles, but fake profiles were common.
"There's a lot of things people can do to reduce their risk of exposure to crime online," he said.
"Certainly in terms of using Facebook marketplace, that's a pretty deregulated marketplace. People need to be extra careful about ensuring that sellers are legitimate and that they don't hand over money until they're in possession of the equipment or the goods."
While what Susana had done by googling the image was a good idea, Cocker said many scammers would not give off a "dodgy" vibe, and it might only start seeming suspicious when they began asking for payment.
Buyers should watch out if the seller was insistent on receiving money before providing the goods.
"They will ask for money or down payments to confirm things unnecessarily, because the truth is that they can't get to the point where you're actually looking at the goods, because they don't exist."
A police spokesperson urged people to exercise caution when buying goods online, especially off Facebook pages.
Sellers may use an alias, either by giving a fake name or an unregistered company to advertise the goods.
"Often sellers communicate only through Facebook with the buyer, who will then deposit cash or funds into an account without actually speaking to, or confirming the identity of, the person they are giving the money to," the spokesperson said.
"Expensive iPhones or vehicle parts are the most frequent goods advertised and some purchases have been worth thousands of dollars.
"If you think about it, you wouldn't leave hundreds of dollars in your letterbox for someone you have never met or seen, on a promise they may or may not return some day with your goods."
Police recommend buying off reputable businesses such as Trade Me, as they offer a greater level of protection, but if the sale is being made on Facebook it is important to confirm the seller's identity.
"You can do this by asking the seller for their cell phone number and ringing them to confirm the purchase, as well as asking their full name.
"Some Facebook users may use photos or names that are not their own. It is not an offence in itself to use someone's photo, however using a fake account to commit a crime can be an offence."