UNLESS you're a millionaire, take the time to listen to Ellyse's story - or the same thing could happen to you.
For two years, Ellyse O'Sullivan managed to save $5000 from money earned from her part-time job to buy her first car. Unfortunately, how she lost that money is an experience that will live with her forever.
The 17-year-old Maclean resident went online to look at cars advertised for sale on the Trading Post.
She found what she thought was her dream car - at a very cheap price - and made contact with the car's owner via email.
“I emailed the seller to find out more about the car as the ad said she couldn't be contacted by phone because she was overseas in the UK,” Ellyse said.
“I asked her a few questions about the car, such as why it was so cheap, is it in good condition, and has it ever been in an accident?
“She replied saying the car was in good condition and was selling it cheap because she was going through a divorce and had accepted a job in the UK.”
Meanwhile, Ellyse decided to take steps to ensure the seller was genuine.
She 'clicked' on an official-looking logo at the bottom of the ad called 'Trading Post help line'.
Ellyse emailed what she thought was the Trading Post, asking how she could be sure the seller was not a fraudster.
She received a reply complete with Trading Post logo stating the seller was a verified trader and had $10,000 in a 'Trading Post purchase protection account'. It even gave 'safe trading' advice.
Ellyse then felt secure in the knowledge her money was apparently protected.
The seller instructed Ellyse to transfer the $4800 payment into a Western Union account.
The day after the transaction, Ellyse received an email from the seller claiming her husband would not allow her to sell the car for $4800.
She said her husband wanted $7000 for the car and asked Ellyse to forward the additional $2200 into the account.
At this point, Ellyse and her mum Geraldine were frantic. They rang the Trading Post and were informed Ellyse had been scammed.
“I was horrified. I had been saving this money for ages. All my savings were gone in one hit,” she said.
“The woman at the Trading Post was sympathetic but said there was nothing they could do to protect against fraudsters. She said it happened everyday.”
The Trading Post advised Ellyse to phone Western Union to report the fraud but Western Union simply referred Ellyse to Crime Stoppers.
A police spokesperson said it was virtually impossible to trace these types of scams, particularly when money was sent overseas.
He said it was unfortunate and Ellyse would be unlikely to get her money back.
“It's really just a case of buyer beware,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Trading Post echoed those comments.
“Trading Post warns of scams and specifically the risks associated with using Western Union as a payment method due to the unsafe nature of paying through a cash transfer service,” the spokesperson said.
“Trading Post specifically lists Western Union as a prohibited payment method on the Trading Post site.
“We understand that in this particular instance the seller was not actually a Verified Trader.”
The spokesperson said Trading Post's Trust and Safety team removed bogus advertisements as soon as they were detected.
She suggested buyers take a few steps to ensure they didn't become victims, including reading the Trust and Safety pages on the Trading Post website, being wary of deals that seemed too good to be true, and verifying as much information as possible before making a purchase online.
In addition to Ellyse losing her entire savings through the scam, she is also concerned the scammers now have her personal details.
“I worked so hard and went without to save this money. Now I have to start all over again,” she said.
“I just don't want anybody else to get caught like I did.”
The Daily Examiner contacted Western Union for comment on the matter but did not hear back.