Rental scam targeting Chinese accommodation seekers

  • 04/03/2024
A rental property.
A rental property. Photo credit: Getty

Rental scammers posing as landlords or real estate agents are targeting Chinese people seeking accommodation.

Police have received several reports of the crime, especially in the Auckland city area.

In a statement on Monday, police said while this is not a new scam, victims are being targeted through different platforms.

"A person seeking a rental property is usually asked to make contact with the supposed landlord or agent over the messaging app WeChat," the statement said.

The scammers have been allegedly sending renters official-looking documents, including ID.

The renter is then asked to digitally sign false tenancy agreements and transfer money, usually thousands of dollars, to a New Zealand bank account thinking they're securing the property.

Police said the scammers often ask for more money, again in the thousands, to reserve the property and tell them other New Zealand-based tenants are interested in the rental and if they do not pay, the property will go to someone else.

Often, victims will make a third payment for the property to be furnished.

"Upon arriving in New Zealand however, the renter soon learns they have been scammed, when they discover that their supposed rental property is already occupied," the statement said.

"Police understand that these offences can be very believable. They can be carried out from anywhere in the world and are prevalent on many online platforms especially social platforms.

"Trust your instincts, if it sounds like a scam, it probably is."

Police are urging people to never transfer money to an individual or organisation that can't be verified as legitimate.

"A legitimate landlord or real estate agent will have a website, generally a physical address, and you should be able to speak to more than one person from that organisation.

"If possible, get a New Zealand-based friend or family member to view the alleged rental property to prove it is legitimate."

Anyone who believes they've been scammed should contact police.