The investigative instinct of a New Plymouth woman saved her from an internet scam and she hopes others will develop the same intuition.
Veronica Weston listed her daughter's Toyota van on Trade Me this month and had high hopes when someone claiming to be an offshore rig worker agreed to purchase the vehicle.
As the email correspondence between the two parties continued, Mrs Weston and her husband realised things were starting to look fishy.
"There were all these signs that we thought didn't seem quite right but we kept the dialogue going with them," she said.
The sale was eventually agreed upon between the Westons and a person who went by the name of Dave Mack.
Mr Mack said an agent would pick the vehicle up on his behalf and take it to USA, however, required a $900 commission fee before pickup.
"He asked us to pay that for a favour because he didn't have a credit card to do it.
"He also said he didn't have access to online banking, yet he was using Paypal," she said.
It wasn't long before the couple received an email claiming to be from internet payment company Paypal, which stated that he had transferred $2700 into the Westons' bank account.
"But we looked in our account and there was nothing there."
The letter stated: "in order to complete the transaction and get the funds approved in your account we advise you to go to the nearest Western Union Office and send the excess sum of $900 to the Transport Agent".
Mrs Weston phoned Paypal who told her they never held money in this way.
She said it was clear they weren't the only ones being targeted as there were other email addresses listed in the one they received.
"At first it looked real genuine. These guys are good at what they do.
"Imagine if it was a teenager who didn't have the backing of their parents, or an older person who wasn't really up with the play."
The purchaser said he hadn't required legal ownership papers which Mrs Weston said was a giveaway in itself.
She has contacted authorities and the Trade Me investigative team, and has also kept the emails going with the hope of making Mr Mack easily traceable.
"He doesn't know who he struck," she said.
"It'd be very nice to catch the buggers.
"People need to be able to know what the signs are and see the clues so they can say ‘no way, I'm not touching it'.
"For some people it's too late."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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