Trust & Safety Blog

A marine biologist, an oceanographer and an astronaut walk into a bar…

A marine biologist, an oceanographer and an astronaut walk into a bar. What do they have in common? They’re not real, unlike the scammer telling the joke.

Here’s five pro-tips for spotting scammer contact.  

Trade Me’s Policing team do a lot of background work to keep our members safe and one of their responsibilities is to hunt down freight-forwarding scammers. As experts in scammer patterns and behaviour, we’re great at distinguishing the interested Ian from the scammy Sally.

Scammers often target vehicle and boat listings on Trade Me, so if you have a listing or are thinking about listing one in the future, here are some tips from the Policing team.

Please note: the examples given are actual numbers and names used by scammers, but this is not an exhaustive list.

Pro-tip one: New Zealand and Australia only!

In general we only allow members based in New Zealand or Australia to use the site. The only exception to this is when a member has had prior approval from our Trust and Safety Team, and those members will only be selling, not buying.

This means if you get contact from someone who says they’re in the UK and want to buy your car for their son in Dubai, they’re a scammer.

Pro-tip two: watch out for text messages

Scammers will usually send a text message as the first form of contact. It will normally express interest in your vehicle or boat and will ask you to send them an email. The easiest way to spot a fraud is that these messages will come from a number like the following:

  • +44 – the calling code for the UK.
  • 3070 (or similar) – in general these numbers are linked to a text service that helps users send the same identical message to multiple numbers.  
  • +01 – calling code for the US.
  • +234 – calling code for Nigeria.
  • + 40 – calling code for Romania.
  • Words rather than a number – like ‘Trade Me’, ‘Jack’, ‘Gary’. These are similar to 3070 as they’re sent from a programme designed to send the same message to multiple numbers.

Scammers have also been known to fake a common New Zealand mobile number (021, 022, 027 etc.) so your best bet is to proceed with caution if someone sends you a generic sounding text message asking you to email them.

Pro-tip three: scammer email addresses. Google is your friend!

First and foremost this is not an exhaustive list because scammers create new email address all the time, but here is a list of the well-known scammer email addresses floating around at the moment:

If you’re suspicious of an email address and it doesn’t appear in the list above, do a quick Google search of the address. For example, when you search for ‘’ the first result is from the Department of Internal Affairs regarding a text scammer.

Pro-tip 4: backstories

Scammer backstories are a constant source of entertainment for the Policing team. Scammers come up with some weird, wonderful and outright insane stories to try and trick our members. So far our favourites have been Grace the ‘Oceanist’ and Bill the astronaut, who was supposedly sending messages from the International Space Station.  

Here are some common scammer personas to keep an eye out for:

Name: Chris Rock
Location: On holiday
Backstory: Works for the Auckland Deaf Society but is conducting meetings overseas and he wants your vehicle to be shipped to Dubai/China.

Name: James Anthony
Location: Darwin City
Backstory: He is buying it locally in NZ as a gift for his son in Dubai. He’s on holiday at the moment so he can’t see the vehicle and he wants to arrange shipping to China

Name: Trevor Wescott
Location: The ocean
Occupation: Oil rig worker
Backstory: Buying a vehicle for his daughter. Due to the nature of his work he can’t make phone calls or access his internet banking, but he can email. He doesn’t have internet banking, but does use PayPal.

Name: Tricha and Ray Ford/Grace and Bill Robinson
Location: Great Barrier Island/Australia
Occupation: Retired couple
Backstory: Away on Holiday for their 20th/30th Wedding Anniversary and want to buy a vehicle for their son who is living in London.

Name: Karen Richard
Location: China Sea
Occupation: Marine engineer
Backstory: Away on business, want a car for when she gets back but needs it shipped to China.

Name: Linda Megan
Location: Offshore/China Sea/Bahamas
Occupation: Oceanographer
Backstory: Leaving New Zealand for work tomorrow, but wants to buy the vehicle for her son who lives in Texas in the USA. She can’t speak on the phone due to lack of reception in the middle of the ocean, but has access to the internet to use email and PayPal but not internet banking.

Name: Joseph Bernank/Sergent Patterson Milton
Location: Afghanistan
Occupation: Officer in the Provincial Reconstruction Team
Backstory: Returning home from his deployment in Afghanistan with the NZDF and needs your vehicle shipped to his home in London.

Name: Thomas Cook
Location: Philippines
Occupation: Red Cross worker
Backstory: In the Philippines to help with Typhoon relief project and need a vehicle to use while in the Philippines.

Pro-tip 5: who buys vehicles without looking at them?

Scammers often buy vehicles without looking at them. Because they are not actually buying the vehicle.

Many people would send a friend, family member or a trusted mechanic to check out a car before buying it to make sure you’re not selling a lemon. Proceed with caution if someone is happy with the asking price and condition of your vehicle without looking at it. Although this isn’t to say people don’t buy vehicles unseen – it’s just an indicator to watch out for.

If you’re keen to hear more pro-tips straight from the horse’s mouth, the site Policing team have become quite good at spotting scams. If you’re concerned about anyone who has contacted you please don’t hesitate to touch base with us. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Is that beer keg really yours to sell?

Beer -kegs

Occasionally we are contacted by brands that have spotted property that belongs to them being listed for sale on Trade Me. We’re asked if we can get in touch with the seller, and that seller might just be you.

Trade Me only allows you to list items for sale that are actually yours, are in your possession, and that you are legally allowed to sell.

This means you cannot sell items bought on hire purchase (HP) that are still being paid off. These types of purchases usually means that the ownership or ‘title’ is retained by the seller until the item is fully paid off. If a buyer defaults on payment, the seller has the right to repossess the item.

But did you also know that promotional appliances from some suppliers like a Tip Top ice cream fridge, or equipment like a SKY TV satellite receiver, usually remain the property of that company?

We regularly work with brands like SKY TV, DB Breweries, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Tip Top and Streets – to name a few, who report listings on the site for decoders, remote controls, receivers, beer kegs, freezers and fridges. These items all remain the property of these companies, and should be returned to them rather than listed for sale on Trade Me.

If we have contacted you about your listing it means that the company would like their gear back, and we’ll give you their details to get in touch and arrange its return.

Alternatively, if you think you have some stuff from when you used to own a dairy, have moved into a house that has an old satellite receiver in the garage, or have cleared out your man-cave and have a couple of kegs knocking around, please get in touch with the brand or supplier and find out how you can get their gear back to them (their phone number is usually on the equipment).

Creative Commons image used courtesy jchatoff.

Ivory and other endangered species products banned from sale on Trade Me

Ivory -jewellery -illegal

We’ve decided to ban the sale of animal parts from animals listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (‘CITES’) on Trade Me. The ban will come into effect on 17 September 2014.

The ban will affect almost all ivory sales on Trade Me. It also includes parts from animals such as red panda, gorilla, chimpanzee, tigers, lion, leopards, jaguar, cheetah, elephants, dugong, manatees and rhinoceros.

What is CITES?

CITES is an international agreement between governments that came into force in 1975. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

When will the ban come into play on Trade Me?

From 17 September 2014. We’ll review this policy (and the exceptions) from time-to-time.

Why has Trade Me made this decision?

A ban on ivory (and other animal products) feels like the right thing to do. We’ve consulted with a lot of experts in this area, including advocacy groups and the Department of Conservation.

Trade Me allowing the sale of ivory in particular is increasingly out of step with international trends. We also read the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee’s report which recommended a full ban on ivory sales in New Zealand.

So will all ivory be banned from sale on Trade Me?

Almost all. It will become a breach of Trade Me’s terms and conditions to sell any item made of or containing ivory, regardless of age or size, subject to two exceptions:

  • Pianos with ivory keys manufactured before 1975; and
  • Bag pipes with ivory parts manufactured before 1975

Why are there two exceptions?

These items pop up from time-to-time. They are pretty uncommon historical antiques and are clearly identifiable. We do not believe allowing the trade in these items supports demand for ivory – modern versions of these instruments substitute ivory for alternative products.

Want to know more about CITES and the ivory trade?

More information about ivory trading can be found at these sites:

Creative Commons image used courtesy USFWS Mountain-Prairie.

Trade Me transparency report August 2014

Like many NZ-based companies, we receive requests for information from NZ government agencies to assist them with their responsibilities to maintain the law.

We've put together our second 'Trade Me Transparency Report' to give insight into how we work with government agencies to help keep our website trusted and safe.

This transparency report details the number of requests from government agencies for information from us in the year from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014

The 2014 report can be read here.

You can also read the 2013 Trade Me Transparency Report

You have not bought a BBQ - but you did receive a phishing email

Overseas scammers are taking the time to do a spot of 'phishing' and are targetting Trade Me members (and also persons who do not use Trade Me) by trying to trick them out of personal details to use to commit fraud.  

You may have been sent an email that looks like the below image.


It is a faked credit card payment receipt. The recipient has NOT actually made a transaction on Trade Me at all. It is an attempt to trick you into 'cancelling' the transaction and providing your credit card details to the scammer. 

DO NOT click on the links contained in the email. They may look like Trade Me but they are not our URLs. Simply delete the email and commend yourself for being cyber safe. 

We are working to have this site removed as soon as we can.

Points to take action on for you to take action on:

  • If you have provided your credit card details via the fake site you MUST CALL YOUR BANK RIGHT NOW. Explain the situation and they will cancel the card immediately
  • If you believe you entered your Trade Me login details into a phishing website, you will need to reset your Trade Me password immediately via your My Trade Me page.
  • As a security precaution, we recommend you run a full virus scan on your computer immediately. In case you don't already have security software to assist with this, you might like to check out this free product:
  • If you use the same password elsewhere, it’s possible that your other online accounts may also be accessed. We strongly urge you to secure these accounts by updating your password and any security questions as soon as possible (but call your bank first).
  • If you'd like to know more about phishing, read our guide to how to protect yourself from scams.