Auckland's rental crisis is prompting a new wave of scams targeting would-be tenants, according to reports.
Scams include a desirable property listed at very low rent – but only available to be viewed once a large deposit was received, a property listed for rent without the owners’ knowledge and complicated systems where legitimate New Zealand passports and drivers’ licenses were used to verify the identities of foreign conmen soliciting fake bonds.
One Whangarei woman had been targeted twice over the past two years. Fifteen months ago, she placed a wanted ad on a rental website. The ad was responded to by someone who called himself “Duncan” and used a passport and driver’s licence to verify his identity.
She completed application forms for his property and supplied identification but became suspicious and backed out when he wanted more than $1000 in rent and bond before she had seen the house.
She thought that was the end of it but last week, she received a Facebook message from a woman in Auckland who had been contacted by someone using her passport and driver’s licence in the same way “Duncan” had more than a year ago.
She told local paper the Northern Advocate this week: "It's too much to comprehend and to work out how far reaching the consequences of this could be. I have been so stressed out about this. I could be accused of all sorts of crimes and how do I prove it wasn't me. I feel so violated."
She is in the process of replacing her licence and passport.
Consumer NZ offers advice on how to avoid rent scams, which it says are becoming more common. It said prospective tenants should always make sure a tenancy was genuine before handing over any money, should never deal in cash and should be wary of anyone asking for Western Union transfers.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs runs Scamwatch, where people can report scams and check things that sound too good to be true.