Top Kiwi business executive caught in Chinese online e-scooter scam - Kogonuso

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Dec 15, 2018

Top Kiwi business executive caught in Chinese online e-scooter scam

When a senior Auckland business executive recently went online to buy his children an electric scooter for Christmas, he got a shock as big as any he's had in the boardroom.

Instead of a $300 electric scooter turning up, the postman arrived weeks later with a tiny package containing a spark plug tester.

When the incredulous businessman, who didn't want to be named, then repeatedly emailed online website next2day.com to ask what had happened to his scooter, he didn't get any reply.

He said even a day before the package had arrived his wife began joking it seemed like he was being scammed.
"I told her, 'Don't give me a

hard time like that', and then this turned up," he said.

At first, he had no idea why the spark plug tester - which came without a receipt or explaining note - had been sent to him and thought, "This is weird".

Then he read a slip on the back of the package describing it as containing a "folding skateboard".

Then it dawned: "I was like 'Oh no'," he said.

Despite being a top executive at a large New Zealand company, the businessman had joined thousands of other Kiwis in falling victim to an apparent online scam.

Estimates vary as to how much money Kiwis lose to online scams but banking ombudsman Nicola Sladden recently estimated up to $70 million could be lost this year alone.

She said the cost was 15 per cent higher than last year and likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, with the true amount of money lost to scams possibly never being known.

Sean Lyons - the director of education and engagement for online safety group Netsafe - said his team were yet to receive reports of online scams involving e-scooters despite the scooters being a hot craze right now.

However, he said the businessman's recent experience shared traits all too commonly experienced by others.

The businessman said he first saw an advertisement for next2day.com on Facebook in November where he also watched a video showing the "Megawheels Shockproof" electric scooter in action.

This together with an inspection of the website made him think the sale was legitimate and so he made the US$209 ($306) scooter purchase, including an extra payment for faster delivery.

Initially he received an email receipt for the purchase, but then heard nothing further when he sent an inquiry after the package failed to arrive within the promised three to five days.

He also tried multiple times to contact the website after the spark plug tester arrived in place of his scooter but heard nothing in return.

However, he said he did eventually get his money back by reporting the suspicious transaction to credit card company Visa, which agreed to refund him and use its own investigators to chase up the Chinese company that made the sale.

Lyons said that while many customers using credit cards were able to get their money back they still endured a lot of "consternation, heartache and feeling of being ripped off".

And while scam websites "used to look terrible", Lyons said they had been steadily improving so that many now looked legitimate - some even using a New Zealand phone number or website domain to make them look locally based.

"You could stop people in the street and you wouldn't have to wait long to hear a similar story to this man's," he said.

For his part, the business executive has had to go back to the drawing board and find a new summer present for his children.

"I need to go find something else quick and maybe not shop online," he said.
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