The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour, Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling, has cautioned members of the public to take extra care with online transactions involving foreign-based traders.
“Whenever you are trading with someone who isn’t in the country, you have to be careful,” Pulotu told the Samoa Observer.
“These transactions cannot be traced and we cannot reach a country outside of our jurisdiction so the best way to avoid being scammed is to ensure you know who you’re buying from personally.”
Pulotu’s opinion was sought following concerns expressed by members of the public about a man posing as a “French doctor” selling a vehicle on a car buy and sell website.
The Samoa Observer understands that one family has already fallen victim to the scam. The alleged scammer contacts his victims via email and lures them to pay for the vehicle in cash via Moneygram. The vehicle he claims to be selling is a Toyota Hilux going for” $10,000.”
His profile on the website, Samoa Cars, shows he is registered with an incomplete cell phone number and an alias.
Email exchanges obtained by the Samoa Observer show that he pressured the buyer into making the transaction but avoids answering questions about the legitimacy of his product.
According to Pulotu and M.C.I.L., members of the public need to be alert. He reminded that if it looks too good to be true, it always is.
“That’s why it’s important you understand and personally know who you’re dealing with whenever you’re online,” said Pulotu.
“Nowadays, there are a lot of social media buy and sell groups and these actually need to be licensed under law to be recognized.”
The licensing of these businesses falls under the Ministry of Revenue where all companies are to be registered under. It was not possible to get a comment from the Ministry of Revenue yesterday.
But Samoa Cars responded to questions from the Samoa Observer.
“We are really focusing on bringing as much security as possible to users, but as with online platforms, scammers are still roaming around on websites like ours or Facebook,” said Axel Peyriere of Pacific Ads Group.
Pacific Ads Group is an Australia-based online marketplace platform that run seven Pacific region car resell websites including SamoaCars.com.
“The difference with Facebook marketplace is that we have our own in house content quality team where we verify a lot of the content,” Peyriere added.
Peyriere says their task is to provide a simple way for locals to be able to sell and buy vehicles online.
“The best advice we can give to car buyers is that they need to see the car, meet with the seller, communicate with him as much as possible, to get the best possible trust relationship with him.
“Always ask as many questions as possible, and also to be aware of some signals like low price point which always shows that it might be a scam,” he added.
The Police Spokesperson, Auaapaau Logoitino Filipo, agrees.
“Our people have to be very wary of where they buy and purchase their stuff from especially if the seller says they’re from overseas and cannot meet,” Auaapaau said.
The Ministry of Police are also asking members of the public to report such incidents to them so they are aware about what is going on.