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2003 - the early days
In the beginning we were merely a handful of online traders who got to know each other on TradeMe's message boards. We were all regular users of TradeMe and a few of us were pretty helpful when it came to advising other traders when trades had gone wrong.
In 2003 we became concerned at a rising number of large scale scams - brand new plasma teles at less than half price, cheap cellphones, bargain laptops - which were being posted on the site. With a little detective work we traced the majority of these scams to a group of Romanian fraudsters. This same group had recently been expelled from eBay and had turned their attention to smaller auction sites around the world.
Initially we used TradeMe's message boards to warn other traders. There we'd gather enough support to "vote off" the scams. This went on for months and began to occupy a lot of our spare time.
Sick of identifying up to fifty fraudulent auctions being listed on TradeMe every day by this Romanian gang, our core team used TradeMe's message board to suggest a method of preventing scams from being listed. Over the next month the thread attracted hundreds of posts but produced no valid response from TradeMe.
Mar 2004 - The ScamBusters' Strike
On March 1st the ScamBusters declared a strike. We continued to identify scams but no longer posted them on the message boards. We set up an alternative forum to coordinate our activities.
We continued to use TradeMe's message boards to make people aware of how many scams were running each day, without listing them individually. But TradeMe's management still refused to get involved and ordinary kiwis continued to get ripped off.
So on May 1st we called off our strike and began listing individual scams on the message board once again. That's when all hell broke loose.
May 2004 - Back to work
On the first day ScamBuster Marika3 posted 13 scams and was promptly disabled from posting on the message boards by TM management. The next day DigiDog posted four more scams and was disabled. Day 3 saw more ScamBusters killed off - Mings posted four warnings while Foggyone and ChinaQT hadn't posted any! Clivehill somehow managed to survive the inquisition for a couple of months until he received a personal and rather childish email from Sam Morgan saying "You piss me off" and he was promptly banned as well. TradeMe had made the ill-fated decision that the word "scam" would not feature anywhere on their site.
Dozens of volunteers came forward and offered to walk the plank on our behalf - a big thanks to those kind people who lost their message board rights for making others aware of scams.
In a rare appearance on the message boards TM manager, Nigel Stanford announced that the ScamBusters had been warned before being banned from the MB. That was untrue.
Only one of our team received an email explaining why she had been "temporarily suspended" - er... banned! TM never bothered to reply to the rest of us. Customer service = nil.
Nigel claimed we had been "spamming" the message boards. So just how many posts constitutes spamming? Marika's thirteen? Alfie and Katharine's four? Or Peter's... er... ZERO? It's pretty obvious that Nigel didn't major in either maths or logic.
When asked how long the ScamBusters would be in exile he replied, "I'd say it's unlikely that they will be returned." That's one way of silencing your critics. Unfortunately it didn't make the scammers disappear.
The ScamBusters believe that anyone who deliberately and cynically sets out to scam others deserves to be exposed. We also believe that TradeMe management have an ethical responsibility for their membership and that they should take action to remove these scams from their site.
TradeMe's overtly heavy-handed action in banning our core team and arbitrarily removing all references to scams on the message boards led directly to the creation of this site. A decade later it has proved to be a valuable resource as well as a venue for open discussion. Thanks, Nigel and Sam - we wouldn't have done this without your inspiration!
As you've read this far, click here for a final word from Sam Morgan - his last line is a killer!
Learn about typical scams on TradeMe...