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Concerns about Halo Boutique clothing website as popularity skyrockets in NZ

New Zealand's foremost online safety group is warning consumers to be cautious after several reports were received about a new and very popular womenswear store.

Halo Boutique appears to sell women's clothing through its website, but NetSafe spokesman Chris Hails says several reports have been received from consumers saying items were paid for on halo-boutique.com but were never received.

Domain records show the site was registered just two months ago, on October 12.

However, its Facebook following is growing rapidly, with the lower-than-usual prices attracting more than 11,500 likes so far, and hundreds of people are referring the page to friends.

Amanda Lewis of Auckland contacted ONE News, saying she never received an item she purchased through the store after several weeks.

"I tried to contact them via Facebook, email and phone but they never replied," she said.

"I then commented on each of the photos on their Facebook pages warning people not to buy from them and every comment was removed and I was blocked from the page so I can no longer comment.

The Halo Boutique Facebook page, with more than 11,500 likes. Source: 1 NEWS

"Suspicious, much?"

ONE News also spoke to Gen Daly of Melbourne, who had her comments on the Halo Boutique Facebook page deleted.

Ms Daly says she purchased a swimsuit from what she thought was an Australian clothing site called DollHouse Lingerie earlier this year, but never received the $80 item.

"After visiting their website I knew it was a scam but unfortunately had already paid for the bathers and just accepted my money was lost," Ms Daly said.

Visitor posts on the DollHouse Lingerie Facebook page. Source: 1 NEWS

She said Halo Boutique was almost identical to that site, which has now closed down, apart from a Facebook page where comments can be seen from people calling the site a scam.

"Six months later they have a new name, exactly the same merchandise and offer."

However, ONE News has also been contacted by Whitney Tapara of Wellington, who said despite her order coming very slowly from an overseas address, she did eventually receive it, but said the process was tainted by poor correspondence.

"I got my order confirmation pretty fast/the same day I ordered, then that was it - no more correspondence despite me trying to contact them via email, phone and Facebook chat," Ms Tapara said

"I never got any response and still to this date have had no reply to numerous messages."

The website says that standard delivery will take between 5-10 days, with express delivery in 3-5 days.

"I have my items now after 20 days so maybe all the other girls should just wait it out - I am sure they will show up just expect massive delays."

The same person who set up halo-boutique.com also appears to own haloboutique.co.nz - the domains were registered four days apart and the .com website carries a haloboutique.co.nz email address as the official contact.

Both the DollHouse Lingerie and Halo Boutique websites were registered under the name "Charlotte Wilson" and domain records for one of those shows a Palmerston North address for the registrant.

However, the name "Charlotte Wilson" does not correspond with the occupants listed for that address on the 2014 New Zealand Habitation Index.

Pink Canary Fashion, an online store which runs at pinkcanaryfashion.com.au, is also registered by a "Charlotte Wilson" and has a Facebook page with almost 50,000 likes.

A smaller Facebook page has been created called "Pink Canary Fashion Will Rip You Off", which features warnings from consumers who did not receive items.

Calls by ONE News to the person who registered the sites - using both the official number listed on the website for feedback and the number used to register the website - both went to answering machines, one of which featured a woman's voice saying simply "leave a message".

A call was then returned from a Spark number, but when answered "ONE News", the caller hung up.

A Consumer Affairs spokesperson said about 200 scam complaints were received from the public each month, and those were forwarded on to NetSafe.

New Zealand Police have been informed of the complaints.

SAFETY TIPS FOR BUYING ONLINE

As Christmas approaches, online shopping will become more popular, but NetSafe says it is important to check the background of sellers before parting with your cash.

In 2014, the organisation recorded almost $8 million lost by Kiwis in online scams and frauds, including $400,000 lost by consumers buying on websites, buy and sell pages and online auctions.

There was a growing trend of well-known brands being offered on websites for too-good-to-be-true prices, with the consumer never receiving the goods.

Dubious sites can also harvest credit card details used on them to be used in future scams, but NetSafe says a credit card is still better to use than a debit card, as if a deal goes bad the customer can ask their bank to do a "chargeback" to recover the money.

NetSafe also recommends thoroughly researching a site before buying, including googling its name with "scam' or "review" afterwards, to see whether others have had negative experiences.

Sites without contact details including a phone number are a red flag, and the registration date of a website can be determined using a 'whois' record search such as dnc.org.nz - if it was registered very recently, be cautious about buying.