4 Mar 2024

Chinese community fleeced out of thousands through rental scam

3:19 pm on 4 March 2024
Police in Wellington. Generic image

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Police are alerting the Chinese community to rental scams being advertised online, particularly in Auckland.

Several reports of property scams targeting Chinese renters have been received, where scammers pose as landlords or agents, often using the messaging app 'WeChat' to communicate with victims.

"Unfortunately, this not a new scam and targets victims through different platforms," a police spokesperson said.

"We are seeing reports of this scam recently being advertised on a popular New Zealand-based Chinese web forum. In all instances, the scammers are posing as legitimate landlords or real estate agents."

Police said victims were prompted to sign false agreements and transfer thousands of dollars to secure properties already occupied.

"The scammer will send alleged proof of identity through to the renter, usually in the form of a real-looking passport photo or official-looking document.

"The renter is then asked to digitally sign a false tenancy agreement and transfer money, usually thousands of dollars, to a New Zealand-based bank account to secure the rental property."

Police said the scammer often asked the renter for more money, telling them a New Zealand-based tenant was also interested in the property.

"If the China-based renter does not pay, the property would be rented out to the New Zealand-based renter, and they would lose it. Often, the victim is asked for a third payment, to make sure the rental property is 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."

People must always verify the legitimacy of an offer before making any payments, police said.

"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."

Police said people should believe their instincts.

"If it sounds like a scam, it probably is.

"If you believe you are being currently targeted by a scam that sounds like this, please end contact immediately and get in touch with police."

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