A Waiheke Island family tour operator is still being targeted by scammers, years after he fell victim to a computer sales scheme on Trade Me.
Waiheke Sunshine Tours director Nigel Cooper was scammed through an advertisement for the sale of Apple Macintosh computers on Trade Me, in what may have been one of the first scams on the trading site after it was launched in 1999.
"The asking price of $4000 was, at the time, very reasonable," Cooper said, whose company's three buses take groups of people to vineyards, scenic spots, beaches and historic sites on Waiheke Island.
"I contacted the sellers, who sent me a pro-forma invoice to be paid through a reputable firm, Western Union. I enquired at the bank I used, and was assured the money could not be released at the other end until the goods had been dispatched to me."
Cooper, who was operating several taxis in Christchurch at the time, said he was sceptical, but was "pestered into making the decision" by a short deadline for the deal to be honoured.
"So I went ahead," he said. "All seemed well. The forms were filled in, money transferred, and I waited for the goods to arrive. They never did."
When Cooper began to investigate he discovered the funds had been wired to a Romanian bank.
"I asked my bank how that could happen. We then discovered that the forms they sent me were not genuine from the money transfer company, but were replicas, with one word changed. They looked identical.
"But that one word change meant they were fakes, and the source of them was then able to divert my funds to their own bank account."
The $4000 was gone the computers never arrived, but Cooper said he is now "infinitely wiser" and can spot the dozens of scam attempts he and his company still receive.
"I have seen many similar schemes, and helped prevent others from falling into similar traps.
"I feel for those who get taken for a ride, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and am thankful that my naivety cost me only $4000."
However, he said the feelings of falling for a scam are the same for every victim.
"Even if I get ripped off for much less than others, the same feelings of anger, hurt, disbelief, stupidity, helplessness, and unfairness arise, just as they do in those who get ripped off big time. We all need to learn to be 'wise as serpents, and harmless as doves'."
He said many of the scams he sees now will have a small clue hidden in the fake email address.
"Usually gobbledygook. Anything with a suspicious country, Russia, Eastern Europe, Nigeria," he said.
Cooper has downloaded Apple's scam catcher software to help protect his business, which he said stops 95 per cent of the scams he receives.
"Those that get through, I spot quickly."
If you believe you are a victim of online crime, you can report it to NetSafe's Orb site.
Richard Wallace, accused of being a serial con-man, is facing charges after police say he turned his attention to used car sales in New Zealand.
Wallace, 59, who also goes by the name George Auckland, was arrested last month in Auckland after he appeared on TV2's Police Ten-7 show.
It is alleged Wallace scammed 13 Trade Me customers by claiming to be a legitimate used-car dealer.
Trade Me said its customers were asked to pay a 50 per cent deposit to Wallace, with at least $55,000 allegedly swindled by Wallace.
Wallace allegedly used legitimate motor vehicle traders and companies to legitimise his approaches.
Wallace will appear in Auckland District Court next month to face 13 counts of obtaining by deception.
Trade Me's advice to avoid potential scams includes the following:
• Never send money overseas. Everyone on Trade Me must have a New Zealand bank account.
• Only complete Trade Me trades through Trade Me.
• Pay via Pay Now (credit card). If it is offered by the seller, consider using our Pay Now payment tool.
TradeMe also said it covers sellers if a buyer attempts to use a stolen credit card.
Common lottery and fee scams
Get-rich-quick schemes: These offer opportunities to earn thousands of dollars a week, but your earnings may be dependent on selling the scheme to others.
Nigerian fee scam: This long-running scam offers people a percentage of millions of dollars in exchange for an up-front fee. The Nigerian letter has many variations, and despite its name can come from anywhere in the world.
Prize notifications: A person is informed of a prize win in a lottery, but to release the money, the victim is asked to pay a fee.
Phishing: Phishing attacks use ''spoof'' emails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank and other account usernames and passwords.
This week is Australasian Consumer Fraud week which sees police's financial crime fighting units and financial institutions raise awareness to help people identify fraud, scams, internet cons, and extortion. We take a look at some of the fraud occurring in New Zealand.
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