A solo mum who was ''duped'' into buying a car on Trade Me that turned out to be rusted lemon has been offered free cars and thousands of dollars by good samaritans.
Kerryn Hailwood, from Upper Hutt, had her faith in humanity restored today after Fairfax reported her plight at the hands of a Trade Me user who is now under investigation.
Hailwood, who needs a reliable car to ferry her two young special-needs sons to and from medical appointments, was distraught after buying a 1992 Honda Accord that turned out to be riddled with rust and had an odometer that had been wound back 130,000 kilometres.
She claimed to have been duped by a seller who refused to let her inspect it until it was dark and raining.
Hailwood paid $950 cash for the car in a transaction completed independently of Trade Me.
She bought it believing only a rear lightbulb needed replacing but discovered it was unwarrantable.
What little income she has gets chewed by medical and travel expenses, and she cannot afford the repair costs.
But half a dozen people came to her rescue today, including Rutherford & Bond Toyota in Wellington who gave her a 1999 Toyota Corolla free of charge.
''I didn't know what to say. I just dissolved into tears,'' she said.
Two other dealers also offered free cars, while other members of the public offered donations of up to $1000 to help her pay for a new set of wheels.
Good samaritan Hayden Foster, of Lower Hutt, set up an online fund-raising page and collected over $400, which he said he would convert into petrol vouchers and give to Hailwood.
''It just sounded like she was in a really tough situation ... but it's nice to know you can have an impact.''
Hailwood said the offers were a pleasant surprise given she only went public to draw attention to the Trade Me user and to warn others not to make the same mistakes as her.
''I was very, very naive. But this just goes to show how nice some people can be. I was truly blown away by their kindness.''
Her sons Anthony, 4, and Seth, 6, are both intellectually disabled, on the autism spectrum, and suffer from a raft of chronic medical conditions.
Anthony has a hole in the heart and is due to undergo surgery soon, while his brother suffers periodic seizures and has an eye disorder that can result in retinal detachment.
The boys' father has not been around since Anthony was born and Hailwood does not receive any financial help other than her benefit.
When Fairfax contacted the suspected seller, he said she was ''full of sh*t'' and hung up.
He told Hailwood his name was ''Shaun'' but it is unclear if this is a real name.
Trade Me spokesman Jon Duffy said its initial investigations suggested she had been deceived by a ''ratbag'' user.
The description on the vehicle listing was an outright lie. The seller claimed it had been in his family for 17 years but an online information check revealed it had changed owners many times.
''The check costs $19.95 and Kerryn indicated she wasn't in a financial position to pay for it at the time,'' Tuffy said.
''But we'd emphasise that for $20, you could save yourself $1000 of hassle down the line.''
Trade Me had restricted the account and tried to contact the person behind it, but that person has not responded to calls or emails.
''Obviously there's two sides to every story and, even though it doesn't look great, we'd still like to hear from this person.''
- The Dominion Post