Current Scams - see out forums

If you're looking for information on phishing scams & account hijackings, read our our TradeMe scams pages.



 Typical scams on Trademe

Other online auction scams

Here are some of the most common auction frauds used in online auctions.

Money Mules

You may have received an email advertising "Jobs in your country". These will be home-based positions for a shipping manager or a sales rep. You'll be offered a base salary of $2,000 a month or more, and in return the "company" wants you to accept payments on their behalf. They'll offer you a generous commission rate. Sound too good to be true? It is.

In reality they want to use your account to launder money they've stolen from others. Once a money mule receives funds into his or her accounts, they are then asked to remove the money and forward it overseas (minus a commission payment), typically using a wire transfer service like Western Union.

When the fraud is finally discovered the mule is libel for any losses incurred, and the scammers are long gone. We are aware of TM members who have been recruited in this way.

Shill bidding

Artificially inflating the price on an item by using fake bids (a second ID) or accomplices. Look out for a trader consistently bidding on another's auctions then stopping just short of reserve every time. We've exposed hundreds of traders who use this method to defraud others. The worst offenders have been known to operate as many as ten different TradeMe IDs at one time.


You win an item but the merchandise is not what was described. Either the value or the condition may be wildly overstated. We recommend that you consider using TradeMe's SafeTrader service for higher value auctions. If you believe that you've suffered from this type of fraud, please register on our forums and seek advice from experienced traders.

Failure to ship

The seller takes your money and runs, leaving you poorer for your trouble. In may cases victims will just write these types of failed trades off to experience rather than admit they've been conned. (See also shakma scam)

Piracy and counterfeiting

 Another LV fake The sale of pirated music, software, computer games and designer clothing is a huge problem on TradeMe. In the early days of this site we estimated that around 99% of goods labelled either Louis Vuitton or Abercrombie & Fitch on TradeMe were fakes. These days the most common fake items being sold on TradeMe are Microsoft software (operating systems and MS Office), memory cards and flash drives. Our Fakes & Copyright Breaches forum reveals the latest scams.

Internet Fencing

Selling stolen goods through an auction. Difficult to detect. Look out for a new trader selling a number of car stereos (for example) with no instruction manuals and possibly with the wiring loom chopped.

Fee stacking

The shipping costs are inflated by the seller after the sale has been agreed or a ridiculous "packing charge" is added to the final price. If in doubt, ask the seller before you bid. Also note that inflating postage prices is strictly against TradeMe's terms & conditions.

False Loss or Damage Claims

 A Nokia scam on TradeMe While items sometimes get lost or broken in the post, these claims can be fraudulent, or the result of careless handling by the buyer. In either case the seller usually suffers a loss.

Account hijacking

Every now and then TradeMe accounts are hijacked using phishing emails which appear to come from TradeMe. These emails ask members to login in and check their account. The email links to a fraudulent site which looks like the real thing. Once you've entered your details you are redirected to TradeMe, unaware that the scammer has just grabbed your login and password. He changes your password, lists a few scams on your account and hopes to find victims before you discover his deceit. See Romanian phishing scams for more details.

Other resources

ScamBuster Peter Andersen has written an Auction Fraud ebook (in PDF format) which details the anatomy of a scam and contains lots of handy tips and tricks for online traders. We recommend you download your free copy from our links page.

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To save the eBook to your computer, right click
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You can use our forums to freely discuss scams. While you'll need to register to gain access to this area, registration is free and we'll never release your contact details to any third party.



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 Free Auction Fraud eBook

ScamBusters Peter Andersen outlines tips & tricks for NZ traders. Download your free copy from our links page.