Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact
One of the very first online business models to show a profit was the
Even back in the late 1990s when most sites were surviving on promises,
hope and venture capital, a number of online auction services were already
spinning a nice little profit.
These days, eBay has become one of the economic powerhouses of the Net,
conducting many millions of individual transactions each week and producing
Here in New Zealand we've seen several auction sites appear, the most
well-known and popular of which is TradeMe.
Unfortunately, like so many things in life, online auctions have their
good sides and their bad sides. While it's possible to snap up some
real bargains -- it's also possible to find yourself out of pocket and
feeling stupid when you become the victim of a fraud.
Most auction sites are concerned about the effects that fraudulent transactions
have on their business and, as a result, have introduced a number of mechanisms
designed to reduce to protect customers against such rip-offs.
Unfortunately, given the large numbers of individual auctions in effect at
any given time, it becomes virtually impossible for large auction sites to
vet each individual offer.
According to a group of TradeMe regulars however, the management of NZ's leading
auction site are not being proactive enough and are concerned that some basic
protections are not being applied. They claim that they've spotted over 50
fraudulent auctions in a single day on the TradeMe website.
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In order to highlight this situation, the group have set up
designed to highlight the problems of fraudulent auctions and their
dissatisfaction with TradeMe's response to the problem.
Scambusters believe that many of the problems are created by scammers operating
from Romanian net addresses and say that blocking such IP numbers would be
a simple and effective way of reducing the level of fraud.
However, the Scambusters have found themselves at odds with the
auction site's management. In the first three days of May,
TradeMe banned four of the five core members of the group from posting on
the site's message boards and a further two new recruits a few days after.
In a press release issued this weekend, one of the Scambusters group, Alf West,
said "We understand that TradeMe
would prefer their site to be seen as a happy place where the sky is always
blue. A safe venue for online trading. However kiwis are being
ripped off by scams on TradeMe regularly and we would like the company to
take responsibility for the problem."
West says of the Scambusters website: "it's a direct
reaction to TradeMe's silly attitude. Silencing the messengers has done nothing to reduce the problem. The
Romanians are still posting scams and attracting victims. We believe that
by sanitising their site of the 'S-word' TradeMe management is doing its
members a grave disservice. We sincerely hope that they'll use some common
sense and rethink their position."
The Scambusters website already catalogs
several groups of spammers and their activities on the TradeMe website and
in particular makes interesting reading.
Certainly the fraud problem is nothing new to TradeMe and at least one
prominent case was featured recently on Fair Go.
Are TradeMe's management putting the fraud issue into the too-hard basket
and neglecting their responsibilities here -- or are online auctions simply
another case of caveat emptor?
What level of responsibility does an online auctioneer have to monitor for
and respond to fraudulent traders?
Is the ScamBusters website a good use of the Internet and a valuable tool
for those who might wish to participate in online auctions?
Should TradeMe link to this site as an additional way of educating its
users to the risks associated with buying a sight-unseen product from
someone you do not know?
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