Newcomers warned about rental scams

Queenstown residents and newcomers have been warned about online housing rental scams after social media reports about fishy landlords.

Hotel housekeeping manager Chely Espinoza, of Queenstown, was seeking to hire staff and received CVs from five people who were camping while looking for a place to rent together.

She said they showed interest in a three-bedroom flat on Shotover St in the Queenstown CBD, advertised online by a woman who said she lived in London and owned the property.

Ms Espinoza said the woman sent a rental agreement by email to one of the prospective tenants and asked for a bond and signed contract to be sent over before she could post the keys from London, but they soon grew suspicious.

"I told him immediately it was sounding like a scam, so he showed me the conversations he had with the lady.

"She was very convincing and after she asked for the money to be transferred to her bank in the UK, he asked her for proof that everything was legal and truthful and she replied saying 'I understand you but I am not here to waste time'.''

The woman offering the property alleged she had inherited the flat from her mother and said she was no longer living in New Zealand.

She asked the group for a $1600 bond and one week's rent in advance.

Posts from administrators in a social media group used by thousands of people in the resort confirmed the person who offered the flat had previously used multiple fake accounts and was already banned from the group.

Other members of the group also said they had seen similar offers previously posted online by the woman.

Ms Espinoza said the group then stopped contacting the woman and "that actually we don't know if it's a woman, man, old or young''.

"So please people, especially the ones who are just arriving in Queenstown, be aware of these type of situations and ask your friends or workmates before you put any money to an account if you don't know the person.

"We know that the shortage of accommodation has affected Queenstown for a long time and that these things are common to happen now.''

The Otago Daily Times reported last week that the average weekly rent in the district skyrocketed to record levels last December, peaking at $651.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment data, based on statistics gathered from bonds submitted to Tenancy Services, showed the district's average rental price was the highest in the country.

Senior Sergeant Paula Enoka, of Queenstown, said everyone in the resort looking for housing online should be "mindful if at all you are faced with a situation that seems like fraud''.

"Ask further questions and for confirmation of identity and address.''

She reminded people to only follow up on renting accommodation online if the housing offered could be proved to be legitimate.

Further advice on how to avoid scams can be found at netsafe.org.nz

joshua.walton@odt.co.nz

 

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