Taranaki teenagers Stephanie Herbst and Aaliyah Ormbsy are warning online shoppers using the popular Buy & Sell New Plymouth Facebook page to be wary after they were ripped-off using the site.
The New Plymouth Girls’ High School students each responded to a listing for an iPhone 4S at the bargain price of $400, and transferred money into the account of an out-of-town seller calling themselves Twiggy Lovee.
But the phones never arrived.
“I decided to buy the iPhone online as an impulse buy. After earning my own money for the week I had $500 and thought this was a good opportunity,” said Miss Ormbsy who had previously paid cash on delivery when buying goods from the site.
“I wish that I had been more cautious,” the 17-year-old, who paid the full amount, said.
Miss Herbst transferred $200 after arranging to pay the balance when the phone was delivered but never heard back from the seller.
“The next day she (the seller) blocked me on Facebook but I still have her bank details and messages though,” she said.
The 18-year-old said her experience had made her wary of buying things over the internet.
“It made me realise how important it is to see the product before you buy it, to make sure it is real.
“It also made me re-think about trusting people that you don’t know. I’m a pretty trusting person, I never would in a million years think someone was even capable of doing that to another person.”
Both girls have reported the incidents to police.
“They said I would be contacted to obtain a statement but I have not heard from them since,” said Miss Ormbsy.
Comments about scams and rip-offs have become a regular sight on the Buy N Sell New Plymouth Facebook which has amassed 8000 members since its launch in April last year.
Founders of the not-for-profit site Ric Tucker and Tam Wallace were aware there had been some problems with scams, but said that users of the Facebook page had a responsibility to exercise caution.
“I don’t think it’s a smart idea to pay someone via bank transfer, someone you don’t know, unless you’re absolutely definite that you’ve got their address and that you know their real name, said Miss Wallace.
“We just don’t recommend it,” she said
Mr Tucker said the idea of the page, which has a lengthy Complaints, Rights and Rules section spelling out how to trade safely, was to help local people who wanted to swap or sell items.
“The problem is that people seem to be more trusting then they should be. It seems to be that the people giving out their bank details are the ones scamming, people do it on TradeMe as well,” said Mr Tucker.
Westown police Sergeant Terry Johnson said although he had received only two specific complaints about Buy & Sell New Plymouth he was handling an increasing number about online scams in general.
Mr Johnson encouraged people to look out for warning signs.
“Look at the account history of the seller’s trades, sometimes they get friends to fake feedback. Another thing is to be careful of photographed computer images (of goods) that have been taken off the internet.
“If the seller doesn’t allow pickups that should also be a warning sign,” he said.
Mr Johnson said people also had to be careful they were not buying stolen goods.
“I’m aware that the Facebook page is a growing area and people may be getting rid of stolen property and that’s when it becomes an area of interest of the police.”
Mr Johnson said buyers needed to exercise common sense,
“People need to take ownership. You wouldn’t go up to a stranger and give them $500. Yet people are doing it online and putting money into their accounts.”
Mr Tucker and Miss Wallace are now recommending their Facebook fans start using an official website they have set up that allows users to give feedback on traders.
“We made it for the members of the (Facebook) group to try and help them to have some kind of security and to have more options, because then you can give other verified members proper feedback just like TradeMe, and it’s free.”
Miss Wallace said even though there had been cases of fraud on the site they had got lots of positive feedback about how useful it’s been and it’s been attracting about 40 new users a day.
“A lot of people love it; we’ve had people that have been there from the start and they’re veterans of the group now. They’re always quite supportive of us,” Miss Wallace said.