People selling goods to strangers have been advised to be vigilant about a scam that police have uncovered in a case involving high end vehicles.
Three men, aged 20, 22, and 23, have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of obtaining by deception.
Waitakere police say they want to highlight the incident to prevent similar deceptions.
They say it starts with offenders contacting sellers of vehicles being sold on the Trade Me online auction site and arranging a test drive.
The offenders then produce a fraudulent completed bank payment slip to convince the seller that the money would be cleared the next day and to let them drive the vehicle away.
Meanwhile, the vehicle is listed for sale on various online Facebook pages under fake names.
Constable Michael Reinecke says cell phones, laptops and jewellery have been targeted in a similar way.
"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," he said.
The complication is that if the vehicle was sold on before it was reported stolen and the end buyer had bought it in good faith, the buyer became the new legal owner and the original seller ended up out of pocket.
Working with Trade Me, police located all of the vehicles known to have been taken in this way but were urging everyone to take care when buying and selling 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," Const Reinecke said.
"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."