Scammers are targeting Chinese immigrants looking for Auckland rentals with “very believable” but fraudulent listings, police have warned.

It comes as immigration to New Zealand roars back to life after the pandemic, with an increasing number of workers and international students entering the country.

However, some China-based immigrants have faced “very believable” scams, according to police, especially whilst looking at properties in Central Auckland.

Authorities said they have received reports of several people being scammed as a result of the cyber ruses.

According to a police spokesperson, the scam has recently been advertised on a popular New Zealand-based Chinese web forum and has been carried out over WeChat.

“Police understand that these offences can be very believable,” they said.

“In all instances, the scammers are posing as legitimate landlords or real estate agents.

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

“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.

“The scammer often asks the renter for more money, again usually in the thousands to reserve the property, 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 has already been taken.

Upon arriving in New Zealand however, the renter soon learns they have been scammed when they discover that their supposed rental property has already been taken.

Police explained: “They can be carried out from anywhere in the world and are prevalent on many online platforms, especially social platforms.”

Authorities provided a list of tips for avoiding similar scams:

  • Never transfer money to an individual or organisation that you can’t verify 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.
  • 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
  • Trust your instincts, if it sounds like a scam, it probably is.
  • For further information of how to keep safe online, or to report suspected scams, visit the Netsafe website

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