Waitakere Police are urging members of the public to be vigilant when selling their belongings to strangers after uncovering a high-end vehicle scam.

Three men, aged 20, 22, and 23, have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of obtains by deception after Police identified a criminal group obtaining high-end vehicles through deception via Trade Me.

It starts with offenders contacting sellers of high-end performance vehicles being sold on the online auction site and arranging to meet them to test drive the vehicles.

Afterwards, they show the seller a fraudulent bank payment completed slip, to convince the owner the money will clear into their accounts the following day and to let the offender drive the vehicle away.  

Meanwhile, the vehicle is listed for sale on various online Facebook pages under fake names.

Cell phones, laptops and jewellery have been targeted in a similar way by offenders.

“Often the offenders are able to sell the vehicles to new buyers, who are usually acting in good faith, before their victims realised they have been scammed and report their vehicles stolen,” says Constable Michael Reinecke of Waitakere’s Tactical Crime Unit.

“This can complicate matters because if the vehicle has been sold on before the seller has reported it stolen, and the end buyer has bought the vehicle and its title in good faith, they are the new legal owners and it is the original seller who ends up out of pocket.”

Working closely with Trade Me, Police have located all of the vehicles known to have been taken in this way but are urging everyone to take care when buying and selling anything online.

“If you’re selling a vehicle to someone you don’t know, check their money is cleared in your bank account before handing over the keys,” says Constable Reinecke.

“Don’t get pressured into handing over anything you’re selling until you’re sure you’ve received the funds for it. A genuine buyer will usually be happy to wait for you to check.”