Facebook Marketplace scammers prompt police warning to online bargain hunters
Shoppers hunting for bargains on social media have lost out buying items from the Facebook Marketplace Community, prompting police to issue warnings.
Sellers have been targeting buyers on the relatively unmonitored sale site across the country since it was launched in October 2016. Several of those complaints have been from Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast shoppers in recent months.
Nelson Police crime prevention Senior Sergeant John Price said there were no checks and balances in place to protect New Zealand shoppers on Facebook Marketplace and some people had found themselves out of pocket.
He warned shoppers of the site to take "extra care" after several complaints of swindled money and the sale of stolen goods were made.
Price said sellers could easily create false identities, which meant they could not be tracked down when the paid for goods failed to arrive.
If stolen items were sold to shoppers, Price said those parties should be aware original ownership remained despite payment to a third party. "People need to be particularly careful about what they're buying."
"Unlike specialised sales apps and websites there's no real check and balance in this Facebook system," he said. "You just put something up and someone makes an offer. You don't even have to have an identity."
Have you been scammed by a Facebook Marketplace seller? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
He said an example involved a second-hand gold iPhone5 for sale in Blenheim for $250, "which seems relatively cheap" and it was too good to be true.
"We've seen things like cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol for sale. Who buys packets of tobacco for $50 and sells them for $30?"
Price said sale tactics involved the seller advertising they had bought items cheaply overseas or had over-stocked shops and needed to get rid of the items. But people should take precautions with such claims, he said.
Marketplace opens with photos of items that people near you have listed for sale. When you tap on an image a product description, name and profile photo of the seller and their general location appears.
The site allows a buyer to contact a seller via direct message. Facebook does not facilitate the payment or delivery of items in Marketplace. There is an option to 'Report' a seller but there is uncertainty what affect that has.
A national police statement advised buyers there was a risk the person selling goods online was not who or what they said they were.
The warning said many online retailers and auction sites operated a "trust system" to help the public identify who was or wasn't verified and/or reliable.
New Zealand online trading sites work with police to deal with fraud and stolen goods sold on their sites.
"There will always be some people who try to use online sites to scam and rip people off for money, so care must always be taken," the statement read.
Anyone who believes they are a victim of crime, in person or online, should report the matter to police.