Verna and Gary Elks needed to update their old tractor and found a deal that seemed too good to be true — and it was.
- NT Consumer Affairs has listed more than 20 farm machinery websites it believes are fake
- Gary and Verna Elks fell victim to a site that used a vacant block in the NT as its address
- NT Consumer Affairs said people across Australia had lost $380,000 to these sites
The couple discovered a website advertising a $20,000 tractor and began the purchasing process, after conducting some checks to see if the offer was legitimate.
“As we’re getting older we simply need a little more help,” Mr Elks said.
“We just needed one with a bucket, we’ve got an old tractor but it hasn’t got a bucket and it was just going to make life a little bit easier for us.”
Mr and Ms Elks initially received helpful emails, phone calls and were even given access to an online tracker to watch the tractor’s journey to their small property in Western Australia.
But it never arrived.
They said they were embarrassed but determined to expose the fraud.
“It’s the old adage, if it looks to good to be true it is, so just be really careful,” Ms Elks said.
“Well, we’re one of them and we thought we’d done all the right things.”
On closer investigation of the website Mr and Ms Elks had contacted, a street view map of the listed “tractor showroom” address revealed it was a vacant block in Darwin’s industrial area.
“It was a big blow, big, big blow,” Ms Elks said.
“A small farm the size of ours, it was a real hit in the guts, it’s put us behind the eight ball now.
“It destroys you when it happens,” Mr Elks added.
Western Australian consumer protection website WA ScamNet last week published a warning about the scam site, which it said was impersonating a company called Bora Machinery.
WA ScamNet said the real owner of the Australian Business Number (ABN) had been contacted.
NT Consumer Affairs has also listed more than 20 websites it believes to be fraudulent.
NT Consumer Affairs deputy commissioner Sandy Otto said consumers across Australia had lost more than $380,000 so far to these sites.
“They’re very attractive to people who are wanting to update their machinery because the prices are so good.”
The websites have focused on advertising “big ticket” items, such as tractors, motorbikes, campervans and heavy machinery.
Ms Otto said the sites were misusing content from legitimate sites and lifting ABNs to appear more legitimate.
The scam websites constantly evolve and rebrand and Ms Otto said two more had popped up in the past few days.
She said any website requesting a direct transfer of funds into a bank account, whether or not it was an Australian account, should raise a “red flag” for consumers.
Senior Constable Jason Corbett from the NT Police Cyber Crime Unit said they were looking at several lines of enquiry with NT Consumer Affairs and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
Mr and Ms Elks said they would encourage people to purchase items in their local area, even if it meant spending more.
“Try and buy local if you can, it’s better to spend an extra few thousand dollars than it is to lose $20,000,” Mr Elks said.
“It’s highly unlikely they’ll be caught and you definitely won’t be getting your money back.
“They got us a beauty.”