Trust & Safety Blog

Common scams targeting bank customers

Banking -ombusman

Here's a sweet guest blog by Banking Ombudsman Deborah Battell. It discusses common scams that occur in the banking industry - there are some important lessons here for Trade Me users as well!

Just like Deboarah advises you should never share your PIN number, we say you should never share your Trade Me password!

Common scams targeting bank customers

At the Banking Ombudsman Scheme we are receiving more internet and technology-related complaints. Unfortunately, technology enables scammers to reach lots of people and this means we’re hearing about more people being left out of pocket.

The scams are increasingly sophisticated and all bank customers need to be vigilant to ensure they don’t get scammed. When we investigate these complaints we usually have to determine whether the bank or customer is liable for the losses.

Three common types of scam complaints affect bank customers are:

1.     When people send their own money to a scammer

Examples of how bank customers have been fooled into parting with their money include being asked to send a processing fee to access an investment or inheritance, or to help someone they have met on an online dating website.

2. When people send someone else’s money to a scammer (used as a mule)

Mule scams involve bank customers being sent stolen money they’re asked to forward on, often overseas. The customer is usually a middle person (mule) and doesn’t know the money’s stolen. They think what they’ve been told is legitimate.

Examples of money mule scams include when a customer thinks they are sending money as part of a job application, or to help someone they have been enticed into having an online relationship with. Also when someone agrees to rent a property – usually from overseas – and deposits too much money into your account, subsequently asking for the over-payment to be transferred into another account.

3. When people are tricked into revealing their PINs to a scammer

PIN scams involve getting a customer to disclose their PIN, usually after the scammer has stolen their wallet. Scammers use different techniques to get PINs such as:

  • Saying they’re from the bank and need the customer’s PIN to authorise cancelling their card because of suspicious transactions.
  • Calling the customer and telling them they’ve won a prize and need to provide a four-digit number to claim it. The scammer could be trying the combinations while they’re on the phone and telling the customer to pick another one if they do not immediately give their bank PIN. The scam relies on the customer eventually providing their bank PIN.

Our advice – be on guard at all times with your banking. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Make sure you know who you’re dealing with. Do an internet search and look for reviews, check Consumer Affairs’ scam alert website, ask for a physical address you can check, and look the company up on the Companies register.
  • Check with someone independent and trustworthy before you commit to anything.
  • Don’t give out your account details unless the business is established and trusted.
  • Never accept money into your account for a subsequent transfer to others you do not know.
  • Never give out your password or current PIN to anyone, including bank staff.
  • Check your accounts regularly to ensure money is only going to the right places.
  • Report any likely scams to your bank and Consumer Affairs.
  • Contact your bank immediately if you suspect you’ve been scammed. They may be able to reverse the charges unless you have authorised the payment. If you are not satisfied with your bank’s response, contact us to see if we can help you.
  • If you need a four-digit code for something other than a bank card, you should make it different from your bank PIN(s). If you disclose your PIN, even unintentionally, you’re breaching your bank’s terms and conditions and will generally be liable for fraudulent transactions.

Go phish

Many organisations and businesses such as banks are used as a front in ‘phishing’ scams which go like this:

A customer receives an email seemingly from their bank which asks for confirmation of personal details, such as internet banking username and password. It has a link to a website, which looks like the bank’s, but is fake. Once the customer enters their personal details, the scammers can access the customer’s account and take money.

Be wary of:

Emails which appear to be from your bank asking that you confirm your personal details. Banks will never ask you for your password.

Clicking links within emails. If you need to visit your bank’s website type the address into your browser.

Emails which ask you to enter your personal details into a website – it’s probably fake. You may be liable for losses if you disclose your internet banking password.

Check out these other Banking Ombudsman Scheme Quick Guides for advice about safe banking:

A big thanks to Deborah for this guest post!

Privacy Week 2015

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Trade Me’s approach to privacy

This week is Privacy Week! We want to take this opportunity to let you know a few things about Trade Me’s approach to privacy, and give you some insight into how it works behind the scenes.

Your privacy

Your privacy is really important to us. Trade Me has a legal obligation to protect your personal information under the Privacy Act 1993, and we also take a moral obligation to handle it with care as well. We want you to trust us and the way we handle your information, so we will continue to be as transparent and upfront as possible in what information we collect, and how we use it. The information you give us may also be used to improve our website and enhance your experience on Trade Me.

What we do

The easiest way for us to demonstrate our commitment to privacy, and detail what we do with your personal information, is through our privacy policy. We keep this policy up to date, easy to read and all in one place. If we make any changes to this policy we’ll post a site announcement and generally provide two weeks’ notice for you to review the changes.

Sometimes, for significant changes, we’ll seek members’ feedback through the Trade Me Message board before finalising any content changes.

Each year we publish a transparency report which looks at the privacy enquiries we’ve had over the past year. Like many New Zealand companies, we receive requests for information from government agencies to assist them with their responsibilities to maintain the law. We provide for these types of requests in our privacy policy, where we state:

we release personal information only when we believe release is appropriate for legal compliance and law enforcement (including to government agencies with statutory law enforcement responsibilities); to facilitate court proceedings; enforce or apply our terms and conditions; or protect the rights, property, or safety of Trade Me, our users, or others”.

When government agencies contact us with an enquiry, we question whether the information is required for the stated purpose. Where appropriate, we push back strongly to ensure that information releases are sharply focused and as relevant as possible.

We may also receive requests from members to assist them in taking other members to the Disputes Tribunal. While the majority of trades go off without a hitch, sometimes disputes can occur. Trade Me has put several steps in place to ensure we only release your information where appropriate.

Members must complete a statutory declaration, signed by a Court Registrar. This ensures the information released is only for the purposes of tribunal proceedings, and makes it a criminal offence to use that information for any other purpose.

Things to consider

During Privacy Week, we think it’s especially important you take some time to educate yourself about your privacy rights. For example, under Principle 6 of the Privacy Act, you’re able to access any information an agency holds about you, and correct that information if it’s inaccurate.

The Office of the Privacy Commission has a great page that answers privacy related questions and you should also check out the Privacy in Art auctions running at the moment.

As always, we’re keen to hear your thoughts. Feel free to give us a bell, or send us an email with any questions or concerns relating to privacy

What are your obligations as a seller of motor vehicles?

Car -badges

We recently wrote a post about what makes you a Motor Vehicle Trader in NZ. To follow on from that post we thought it would be good to delve into what your obligations are as a Motor Vehicle Trader. 

Trade Me cares about doing our best to make sure our site is a great place to buy and sell, which means we want our members to be as informed as possible.

To recap on our previous post, the motor vehicle industry in NZ is governed by the Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003 (MVSA). If you are deemed to be a Motor Vehicle Trader (MVT) under this Act, you will also have obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 (CGA) and the Fair Trading Act 1986 (FTA). If you fail to meet these obligations you could incur liability and may end up at the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal.

What are these obligations?


Firstly, if you are a MVT then you must be registered . If Trade Me determines that you are a MVT but you are unregistered, your account will be suspended until you register.

The Consumer Information Notice

A Consumer Information Notice (CIN) provides information about a used motor vehicle’s history. If you are a MVT then you are obliged to physically display a CIN on any used motor vehicle, regardless of whether the vehicle is sold in a car yard, on the side of the road or on a website like Trade Me. If you are selling your car online then you must provide a link to the CIN or a clear image of the CIN on the listing.

Warrant of Fitness

On any vehicles you want to sell, the New Zealand Transport Agency requires you to have a warrant of fitness (WOF) issued that has at least 1 month remaining when the buyer takes possession.

Consumer Guarantees Act

Under the CGA you have an obligation to ensure that all vehicles you want to sell are of acceptable quality and are also fit for the purpose for which they are advertised.

Fair Trading Act

The FTA requires that you don’t engage in conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive, whether generally, or in relation to the goods. This means that vehicles must be described accurately.

Two final points to emphasise:

  1. A MVT cannot do ‘private’ sales on Trade Me.
  2. If you are a MVT then you’re “in trade” and this needs to be made clear on your Trade Me membership by adding the “in trade” status to your account. 

Cheers for taking the time to read this – happy car-selling!

What makes you a Motor Vehicle Trader and why should you care?

Classic Car Dashboard

Buying and selling motor vehicles on Trade Me is as popular as ever. We thought it would be a good time to remind sellers out there about the importance of knowing whether you’re a Motor Vehicle Trader or simply a private seller who only sells motor vehicles from time to time.

What you auto know

The motor vehicle industry in NZ is governed by the Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003 (MVSA), and if you are deemed to be a Motor Vehicle Trader (MVT) under this Act, you will also have obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 (CGA) and the Fair Trading Act 1986 (FTA).

Section 8  of the MVSA outlines how you could be considered a motor vehicle trader. The two most common ways are:

  • if you sell more than six motor vehicles within a 12-month period and you do this for the primary purpose of gain
  • if, when selling vehicles, you behave in a way that would lead a buyer to believe you are a motor vehicle trader.

It is pretty easy to work out whether you have sold more than six cars in a year, but it can be a little trickier to determine whether you are behaving in a way that would lead a buyer to believe you are a motor vehicle trader.

An example of behaving this way could be if you are a lover of cars and you only sell six cars a year, however you do this to make a bit of spare cash on the side. You also know a reasonable bit about cars so you advertise them pretty well. In this instance it could be argued that you are behaving in a way that is similar to a motor vehicle trader. In this instance you might be deemed a MVT even if you have no intention of being a one.

Pump the brakes

If you are deemed to be a MVT then you cannot sell cars under a private Trade Me membership. In order to comply with the FTA and CGA, if you are a MVT then you will need to make it clear on your Trade Me membership that you are “in trade”. You will also need to become registered as an MVT with the Motor Vehicle Traders Register.

If you say you are a private seller when you’re actually a MVT, this could be considered misleading and deceptive conduct under the FTA.

All this may seem a bit heavy, but Trade Me really cares about making sure the site is a great place for members to trade together, and that our members are well-informed about their rights and obligations. Plus, it’s always good to know where you stand so that you don’t get caught in an exhausting position.

So now you know if you are a MVT, here's your obligations when you sell on the Trade Me site

Creative Commons image used courtesy Garry Knight on Flickr. 

Are we on good terms?

In 2013, Parliament passed a whole bunch of changes as a result of the Consumer Law review, including some changes to the Fair Trading and Consumer Guarantees Acts. Some of these changes affected Trade Me members, so we’ve blogged about declaring your ‘in trade’ status, substantiating claims, layby sales and buying via online auction. More changes to the Fair Trading Act come into force next week, relating to contracts that consumers have with businesses like Trade Me, such as our terms and conditions and privacy policy.

The ‘unfair contract terms’ legislation covers contracts that businesses enter into with their members or customers. It covers where the member doesn’t have the opportunity to negotiate the terms, as they’re offered on a take it or leave it basis. You’ll see these all the time as a consumer – think of the contracts with your gym, internet provider, and phone or electricity company.

From 17 March 2015, businesses will be required to ensure terms in their consumer contracts aren’t unfair. Businesses also have to ensure that their terms are transparent, accessible and easy to read. For Trade Me members, terms can be considered unfair if they create an imbalance in the parties rights and obligations, creates detriment, or aren’t necessary to protect Trade Me’s business interests or it’s community.

Here at Trade Me, we think our terms and conditions are already pretty fair. We’ve made a couple of minor tweaks to clearly explain how any changes we make will be communicated to you, and also to clarify what kind of conduct we won’t tolerate from our members. Check out our newly updated Terms and Conditions.

Now is a great time to think about which businesses you have a contract with. Take a look at their terms to make sure you think they’re fair. For more information, you can check out the Commerce Commission’s guidelines. We’d love to hear your feedback on these changes, so feel free to drop us a line.