Online-auction site Trade Me says scammers and fraudsters are shifting their focus to auction pages on Facebook.
The past few months have seen online auction groups and pages set up on Facebook that have been widely popular.
These pages and groups operate through the social networking site but are run by individual users who invite their Facebook friends to join and ask others to do so too.
Walk in Wardrobe was started in early 2012, and has now amassed more than 23,000 group members who list their possessions for other members to bid on.
Jon Duffy, head of trust and safety at Trade Me, says the Facebook groups have not had an impact on the volume of listings on their site but staff have noticed scammers are migrating to social networking sites.
“There are known fraudsters out there who are becoming more active on Facebook. They’ll list things on Trade Me but make reference to items listed on social networking sites to try and draw people over.
“A lot of scammers go under the radar. It is not Facebook’s core focus to regulate groups like this but as they are the administrators they should still take action against scammers.”
Duffy says the dangers of sites like this lie in the unknown details of the seller.
“You don’t know who they are, there is no feedback, they have no reputation, you don’t know their history or whether the goods actually exist or not.”
Trade Me has a dedicated team to look out for high-risk items and gain proof the item actually exists.
“We have security tools that alert us when something highly sought-after is listed on the site, something like an iPhone, an iPad, a Galaxy, the kinds of things lots of people want.”
Wellington student Isabella McBean, a Walk in Wardrobe member, says she was caught in a scam on the popular site.
“A girl had listed two dresses that were really popular at the time which she just happened to have brand new in a size eight and 12. I was in a bidding war for the eight but lost out.
“Eventually she contacted me to say I could have the dress if I paid $180 that night as the previous buyer had fallen through. I contacted the original buyer who said she hadn’t pulled out at all.”
McBean contacted Walk in Wardrobe about it and the seller was blocked from the site.
Duffy says he thinks even though the groups are run by individual Facebook users people should still contact Facebook directly if they have had an issue with an online scammer.
Other members have not been quite so lucky in avoiding potential scams and have paid money for goods that do not exist. Other than naming and shaming the seller, there is little they can do.
Walk in Wardrobe recommends checking the profile of the seller before committing to the sale.
“If they have few friends or have recently joined Facebook, we strongly advise against going ahead with the sale.
“There are no legal obligations on the site, unlike Trade Me.”
Daisy Sillis, who has been part of the group for five months and sold more than 30 items on the site, says there are ways to avoid being ripped off.
“I don’t trust or believe anyone who I buy from so I only hand over the money when I have the clothing in my hand.
“There is no way of tracking sellers or garments on Walk in Wardrobe so you can’t trust anyone.”