An offshore-based online fraud is targeting New Zealand landlords.
The scam is one of several highlighted by Fraud Week, earlier in March.
Typically, landlords are contacted via email from someone overseas who says they want to move to New Zealand.
There is typically a series of contacts, and the fraudsters spend quite a bit of time building up confidence, says Lee Chisholm of online safety organisation NetSafe.
The crux of the scam is the fraudsters actually deposit money in the landlord’s account.
“Then, quite quickly – often later that day – they get a contact saying a the whole thing is off because a family member has cancer or something like that, and they need their money back urgently.”
One refinement to the scheme is the fraudster will say ‘we’ve put you to so much trouble, keep 10%’ or something similar.”
The landlord returns the deposit – and then discovers a few days later the original transaction depositing the money has been cancelled.
Some jurisdictions have a couple of days where such transactions can be cancelled, she says, and the fraudsters make use of that window.
A lot of New Zealand groups have been targeted, with landlords being one of them.
“The thing is this seems very legitimate. They are very good at building up a rapport with the person they are dealing with.”
This is a follow on strategy to techniques used for years where items such as cellphones, motorbikes and cars are bought on eBay and the buyer claims to have sent too much money - confused by exchange rates etc - and could you refund the balance. They end up getting the goods and the cash.
If you decide to trust a potential tenant then say you'll give them the refund in cash/cheque when they move in.