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Long-time critics of the auction site TradeMe have highlighted yet another case of fraud that, it's claimed has this time hoodwinked hundreds of victims and seen traders fleeced for thousands of dollars.
Scambuster's Alf West alleges that "recent changes by TradeMe to their DVD area have made this type of scam even easier. Previously you needed to photograph the package and write your own text. Now you merely enter any DVD title and TradeMe supplies the rest of the details as well as a handy photo."
This, says West, makes it easy for a scammer to create auctions for DVDs they don't actually have.
A new TradeMe member operating under the alias dvd_hook_ups is said to have pocketed more than $5,000 in a single week as the result of running a large number of such bogus DVD auctions.
This isn't the first time TradeMe has been slammed for virtually aiding and abetting those who'd seek to fleece its members through fraudulent auctions.
The mere fact that the Scambusters website exists is a sad commentary on TradeMe's own attitude to fighting fraud within its community.
Where are the regularly updated and timely scam-alerts and warnings on the TradeMe site itself?
It's clear that TradeMe would rather have its users ripped-off than dare to scare them away by adequately informing them as to the risks as they appear.
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Of course this must make TM an even more attractive venue for scammers -- since they know that the company's management will simply try to ignore them rather than take concrete steps to alert its users.
But just how large is the scam problem over at TradeMe?
Well, if ScamBusters are to be believed, it's not insignificant.
Their website claims:
"Since February 2006 we have recorded 996 hijacked TradeMe user accounts. The Romanians operating this scam have now listed 3,376 fraudulent auctions offering 102,145 items which don't exist"
Over 100,000 items fraudulently offered for sale in just 18 months!
But it's not just a fear of scaring customers away that probably stops TradeMe from running its own scam-alert service.
I suspect that this is the other reason.
It's clearly to TradeMe's advantage if there's a good level of fraud going on -- this makes it much easier to earn extra money on sales by way of SafeTrader.
Instead of killing the fraudster's auctions and properly informing customers, TM stands to make more money by pitching SafeTrader as a "cure" for such things.
What is most obvious from this situation is just how important "critical mass" is to the viability of an online auction site.
I'd bet good money that if TM was a fresh startup with no existing customer-base, they would not survive in the face of the competition they now face. There are a small number of competitors who'd eat them alive, simply by dint of the fact that they are less paranoid and offer the user a fairer deal.
Have you ever been stung in a fraudulent TM auction?
Do you think TM does enough to inform and alert its users as to fraudulent activity when it is detected?
Are my opinions in respect to the motives for TM apparently paying little attention to fraud valid?
Oh, and don't forget today's sci/tech news headlines