There is nothing quite as liberating for a young person as buying your first car and being able to finally be free.
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For 19-year-old Fiona Bottom, that freedom was to come in the form of a 2015 Suzuki Swift that she had found on the car sales website, Auto Trader.
"It was going to bring me a sense of freedom," she said, "I have to get a lift everywhere which is really hard for everyone because we live just out of Blayney."
Fiona's plan was to use the car to gain her driver's licence but those plans have now collapsed.
"I found the car on Auto Trader and it all seemed really genuine," she said. "Now that I look back I was really excited about owning my own car, so I was a bit blinded by that."
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Now my faith in buying online is shot.- Fiona Bottom
The narrative built by the supposed female owner of the vehicle was that she was working at a military training base in Tasmania, was soon to be deployed for two years in New Zealand and wanted to sell the car that was at her home in Sydney.
Payment of $3000 would secure the vehicle and, on payment of the second $3000, it would be delivered from Sydney.
The scammer said that because of her role she wasn't able to communicate via phone, only by an email address that was soon closed after the second payment was made.
It was when those contacts disappeared that Fiona was sickened by the knowledge that she'd been scammed, and the chance of getting her savings back had disappeared.
"I like to take people at their word," she said. "Now my faith in buying online is shot."
To complicate matters even further the ownership of Auto Trader moved from the Norwegian based Adevinta to West Australian based The Morning Herald group on August 22, three days after Fiona realised that she'd been scammed.
Neither group has responded to requests for comment.
Now Fiona is starting the long process of saving money again, and surely won't be purchasing another vehicle without seeing it in person.
"I just want people to know that these scams are real (so) others don't get caught out," she said.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) service Scamwatch is aware of variations of this type of "buying/selling classifieds scam".
Its advice is to always beware of excuses as to why you can't view the car in person.
Visit scamwatch.gov.au for tips on spotting vehicle-related scams. If you have been the victim of a scam report it to scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam.
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