Masterton man arrested after IP traced: Police

Wairarapa police say they have busted a Masterton-based cellphone scam which stung would-be bargain hunters across New Zealand.

Scammers have been setting up multiple fake profiles on Facebook and then offering iPhones for sale through Facebook garage-sale pages. The phones are normally offered for $300-$600, with a supposed retail value of up to $1500.

However, when the buyer deposits the cash into a bank account, the scammer deletes his or her profile or blocks the buyer.

The buyer receives then nothing, or at most a track and trace parcel with rubbish or deposit slips inside it.

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Police believe between 15 to 20 phones have been "sold" on Facebook with a total of about $8000 taken.

Police began investigating the scam late last year and, through collating cellphone numbers, usernames, CCTV footage and IP addresses, tracked and arrested a Masterton man, 30, believed to be the ringleader.

They are also investigating 10 similar cases, with victims as far away as Christchurch and Auckland.

Detective Kees Muller said such scams were tempting to those after a bargain.

"In these times of economic depression people haven't got a lot of money to spare. They think that it seems legitimate that they are obtaining a phone, for a third of the original price, which is relatively new. But these people are taking advantage, full advantage of that.

"If it's too good to be true, it probably is."

The scammers may even offer to send a copy of their driver's licence, to fool people into thinking it was a genuine profile, Mr Muller said.

"Don't believe that the person you think you are talking to is the person, unless you know them personally. Don't transfer any money to people you don't know."

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Scammers also offered images of a legitimately purchased item so the serial number and receipt could be viewed by potential buyers.

It was also important to remember Facebook offered buyers less security than sites such as Trade Me, Mr Muller said.

"It's too easy and people are too trusting."

It was unlikely the victims, who ranged from students to professionals, would get their money back, he said.

Anyone with information on cellphone scams can contact the Masterton police on 370 0378.