Trade Me users ripped off for $30,000

A fraudster is wanted by police who say he has scammed $30,000 from Trade Me users by texting them and offering them iPhones.

Police say Joshua Colin Calthorpe, 32, does not have his own account on the auction site, but trawls through other users' listings to find victims.

He targets people who have left their contact details in the question and answer section of an auction - usually for iPhones.

"He views the auction listings and records the contact details of the interested buyers. He will then text or email them posing to be the seller from the auction they expressed interest in," said Counties Manukau police spokeswoman Ana-Mari Gates-Bowey.

"He then offers them a deal they can't refuse, provided it is done outside of Trade Me so he 'doesn't have to pay the Trade Me fee'. They then deposit the money into his bank account but never receive the iPhone."

Calthorpe has previously been convicted of 45 similar fraud charges. He has two active warrants out for his arrest for breaching court release conditions. He is also wanted for 19 fraud-related offences.

"The cost of his recent offending is approximately $30,000," said Ms Gates-Bowey.

Calthorpe featured in the Herald last month among the 40 most-wanted offenders in the Counties Manukau district.

Trade Me head of trust and safety Jon Duffy said it was not the first time Calthorpe, who also used the last name Taorei-Calthorpe, had scammed users.

"We are aware that he is actively attempting to contact Trade Me members leaving their details on the site, and we have laid further police complaints relating to his most recent scam attempts," Mr Duffy said, adding that scammers were banned from having Trade Me memberships.

"It can be tempting to bend the rules and leave contact details in the question and answer section of listings to try to push through a quick sale. Unfortunately, this leaves you vulnerable to text scamming."

- Anna Leask of the New Zealand Herald

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