Rental property scam (11th June 2010)

In helping Mum find a place to stay in NZ, she stumbled upon an ad on the web of this perfect 2-bedroom apartment on 24 Hanson St, Mt Cook for a mere $165/week and asked me to check out the place for her. Hmm, sounds way too cheap for the whole apartment that looked similar to the one I’m living in now AND it was said to be fully furnished too – I don’t know but something smells rather fishy here…too good to be true, really. Check out the ad: http://wellington.locanto.co.nz/ID_103309350/Spacious-2bedroom-with-1baths-in-Wellington-City.html

So Mum contacted the advertiser and turns out house owner, Reverend Thomson is in Africa doing missionary work and that Mum should contact his wife, Lucy Nash, who is residing in London. Both husband and wife sounded really kind and lovely (very Christian use of ‘God Bless You’ and the like) in their emails, explaining that they are seeking a responsible tenant to care for their house while they were away overseas and that money was not the main issue, thus only asking $600/month including power. “Ding, ding, ding! It’s a scam, it’s a scam!” my head went when I saw the email Mum copied me in – seriously, both house owners NOT in the country AND Lucy has the keys and documents to the house? She wanted Mum to complete a rental application form which asked for her personal details including employment history (for what?) and the applicant has to agree to pay upfront a rental bond of $500 which was refundable in order to get the keys to the house. Scam, scam, SCAM!

But I was naughty and wanted to see how far Lucy or whoever this scammer is would go so asked her if I could view the place on Mum’s behalf only to be told that I could just view from the outside, insisting that she will only provide the keys when the completed rental application is received. I further explained to her that it was rather unreasonable for one to rent a place without first viewing it, that she should understand my scepticism, and if she could pass the keys to a local family member or friend to show us the place. You wouldn’t believe it but the scammer took a 360 degree change in tone in the email reply. “So you do not trust us and you want to rent flats from us! I don’t think you are normal,” was the response. Excuse me but what a b*&ch! Could you ever imagine a reverend’s wife speaking in such a manner?! She couldn’t even give me the exact unit number (24 Hanson St is a whole block of modern apartments)!

On further investigation, this particular scammer has been scamming all around NZ, using different properties, the same story but a change of names and email addresses. Just look at the many complaints on this Facebook property page about the ad: http://www.facebook.com/flatfinder?v=wall. Jono also had a look at the legal property owners’ database online and couldn’t find legal owners with surnames Thomson or Nash. 100% confirmed scam!

I’ve since flagged the ad as a scam on the property website and also submitted a scam report to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. Hmm, I wonder if anyone fell for this scam…I sure hope the authorities catch the scammer. Be careful, New Zealanders – we may be living in a safe and peaceful country, but it doesn’t stop scammers trying their luck!

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