Canterbury police have recently dealt with five cases in Christchurch where people have created fake Facebook profiles to carry out scams (File photo).
Cantabrians are being warned about a scam in which criminals set up fake online profiles to lure people into buying cheap electronics, only to rob them.
Police have seen five recent cases in Christchurch where people have created a fake profile and advertised a high-end iPhone or iPad on Facebook Marketplace at a price that’s “almost too-good to be true”.
Those behind the scam then arrange a meeting place to make the sale, only to steal their cell phones or cash.
In other cases, they will contact the seller of a genuine listing, arrange a time and place to meet and then steal the item instead of paying for it.
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New Zealanders have lost $23 million to scams in the last 18 months, with the majority of victims staying silent about being duped. (Video first published October 2020).
“Canterbury Police are working under the assumption that the five incidents are linked and involve the same offenders,” a police spokesman said on Thursday.
In one case on September 23, a person agreed to meet an alleged scammer to sell an iPad they had listed on Facebook Marketplace.
Two offenders met the person and run off with the iPad, assaulting the victim when they gave chase.
Police urged anyone buying items via social media to take “basic precautions”, such as meeting to conduct transactions, examining an item before buying it, meeting in a public place and taking a friend.
Police urged people not to go into someone’s house or allow them into their own homes, and also not to hand over money before receiving an item.
“Trust your instincts – if it’s too good to be true or sounds like a scam, it probably is,” police said.
Netsafe, a non-profit online safety organisation, has also had reports of people paying for goods, such as mobile phones or clothing, on Facebook Marketplace but not receiving them.
Buyers contacting the person they have made a payment to have found either the Facebook account of the supposed seller has disappeared, they’ve been blocked from the account or their messages are ignored.
Netsafe says it can be difficult to get money back lost in such scams, usually requiring taking a case to the Disputes Tribunal.
More people than ever before are falling victim to scams as criminals use increasingly more sophisticated techniques, the organisation says.
In a report last year, Kiwis reported a combined loss of nearly $19 million in a single year from online scams and fraud to Netsafe.
The largest single loss reported was about $840,000, while the average loss was more than $4700.
NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker said such losses were likely a small percentage of the money lost each year.
“Sometimes people can be embarrassed to seek help, or they simply don’t know where to go for support which can further add to the harm they experience,” he said.
People between the ages of 18 and 40 made up close to half of the losses, at a combined $5.5m, while those aged over 41 made up 38 per cent, losing more than $12.4m.
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of a scam should make a report to the police on 105 or visit their local station.