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Couple scammed of $47k

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Exclusive: Dream car purchase turns into a living nightmare

Emily Ireland

If you want to make a quick $50k, be a scammer – “because no one will come for you”.

That’s the conclusion of a Wairarapa couple left “gutted” after losing $47,000 attempting to buy their dream car online.

The scammer now has the same car back for sale and the couple have enlisted a close friend in a bid to try to “shut the scammers down”.

The victims, who wish to remain anonymous, thought things in their life were falling into place.

They had almost finished paying off their house, and their dream car – a 2009 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 – popped up for sale online on the trade website Trovit – it was $US33,500.

Before long, they were in conversations – online and over the phone – with the seller.

He told them he had purchased the car in the United States and moved to Poland with the car, but the law made registration of a vehicle “expensive and difficult”.

“Instead of letting it sit in the garage I’ve decided to sell it at a low price,” he told them.

The seller even promised the Wairarapa couple that because of the “high volume of internet scams” they would receive the car at their home address before he even received payment for it.

Negotiations continued for about three months, and the couple even asked their accountant whether the seller’s business and the shipping company was legitimate.

“Going by their website, it looks like a professional/legit business,” the accountant told the couple, but they admitted: “I know as much as what you would about the business”.

On March 13, the couple were asked to pay a $US8375 deposit to the shipping company.

But on March 16, they were told there was a problem because the New Zealand Customs Service requires all vehicles to be fully paid for before shipping.

They checked, and this was confirmed by Customs.

They paid the money, and the scammer gave them a tracking number and a supposed shipping company website. They tracked the progress of the supposed shipment through the site but on the weekend of April 8, the website disappeared.

“I was just devastated,” the victim said.

“I was just gutted that someone we trusted for three-and-a-half months could scam us.”

They got in touch with their bank and police, and at that point thought something was being done to stop the scammers – “I mean, where else do you go?”.

“With the bank, I was hopeful they would get onto the Polish bank ASAP and it would be sorted, and hopefully we could get our money back or at least the account holder would be caught.”

But after following up with police on May 28 – six weeks after they reported the scam – the victims said an officer visited them and told them their file had been sitting with Wairarapa police, unassigned, since April 10.

They said the officer told them he was “not their saviour”, and there was nothing police could do.

The victim’s friend said she had notified several agencies but “most of the agencies that you can report to online are just statistical collecting – there is no one out there willing to actually stop a scam”.

The friend is now communicating with the same scammer, pretending to be a buyer. The scammer has changed his email but kept the same alias, is using the same car description and pictures, and is listing the car through the same website, Trovit.

“I was so excited when my friend got contact with the scammers last week, because I thought, this is it, something is going to happen, we’re going to catch him,” the victim said.

“Then I found out last week that nope, the police aren’t interested and won’t be doing anything.

“So, why don’t we all be scammers then? No one is doing anything about it.”

The victims and their friend are now waiting for the scammer to provide new bank details, and will notify authorities in Poland when this happens.

“I’ve come to terms with the reality that I’m never going to get my money back, which guts me because we borrowed the money over my home mortgage, and we will have to pay that back every month for nothing,” the victim said.

“I do not want someone else to go through what we have been through. It is a frigging nightmare.

“And I just can’t believe this scammer is online right now, doing the same thing to someone else.”

On behalf of Wairarapa Police, Senior Sergeant Mike Sutton said inquiries were being made following “a transaction that was made online overseas”.

Mr Sutton said police had spoken to the victims of the scam, “and [we] sympathise with them”.

“We know scammers can be very cunning . . . we urge all purchasers to be alert for scammers and offer this general advice: scammers are organised criminals – they do everything they can to appear legitimate.

“This includes using fake identities, pictures they find on the internet and stories that have worked for them before to gain something from a person.”

Mr Sutton advised people to only enter into financial transactions online if the vendor is a “trusted source”.

“If you receive an email that appears to be from a bank, government organisation or other agency but you are unsure of its authenticity, phone them to check if the email is legitimate.”

He said Netsafe also provided helpful advice on avoiding online scams.

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