Rental scam costs dearly

00:35, Aug 19 2014
Graham Tait sits with Hilary Port
SCAMMED: Graham Tait sits with Hilary Port, who was scammed out of $3000 after paying a deposit for a rental house that wasn’t owned by the man she paid.

When Hilary Port says it out loud she admits it just sounds so stupid.

There was no bank account, no receipt, and no bond form. She didn't even know his full name.

But he sounded so convincing and she was so desperate. She had to sell her New Brighton unit when it became clear she could not afford it. She was looking for anywhere.

That's when the man she knew only as ''Danby'' offered her a solution. He was a ''friend of a friend'' and his mother was renting a place, he told her. So they drove past the property in Belfast. It looked very nice but Port told him it was a little bit out of the way and she didn't drive so it wasn't really an option. 

Don't worry, Danby said. His mother had another property up for rent in Bromley. It also looked very nice. It was double glazed, Danby told her. It had a sleep out and three bedrooms. It was gas heated. But they couldn't go inside because it was tenanted. But they would be moving out soon. His mother wanted eight weeks rent in total and $400 for gas. 

''I said yes,'' Port said. ''Gosh I'm a fool.''


The 54-year-old sickness beneficiary is now living in a holiday park cabin, paying $70 a night and waiting to hear from police to see if they can get her money back.

Danby even helped Port and her partner Graham Tait move out of the unit and into a storage container. Port offered Danby dinner and drinks when he came round. 

Danby produced a hand written note from his mother. There was no bank account so Port gave him cash - $2800 in hundred dollar bills. She signed the note and gave it back to him. Then on Saturday, Port was ready to get her belongings out of storage to move into the new place. Tait knocked on the door and a man answered.

Tait asked if they were moving out soon because he had paid a deposit on the place.

No, the man at the door said, I don't know what you are talking about. I have lived here for three years, he said. I own the place, he said.

Tait's heart sank. 

''I bloody knew it,'' he thought.

Of course, Danby had been too eager to move them out of their unit, too eager to get the money and so keen to get away when it that money was in his own hands.

Danby did not answer calls from Port or The Press, however Port said the man had been arrested this morning. 

The man's uncle came knocking on Port's door and took her to the property where the alleged offender was staying. Police then arrived to arrest him.

"We confronted him and he was arrested and taken away," Port said.

She said it was great to have some sort of retribution even though it was likely he had already spent the money.

''It's not the money,'' she said. ''It's the treachery.''

Port thought at her age she should know about human nature. All she has learned is not to trust anyone.

''I don't think I'm naive. He just sounded so plausible.''

Port did not know where she would go. She was a health professional, working in hospitals before she was diagnosed with heart problems. Now, she could not afford to buy a new place and said it was hard to find a rental in Christchurch. She did not want to leave the city.

''I want to still be a part of it. I don't want to abandon it.''


Detective Superintended Peter Read said in such cases it was "buyer beware".

"We would advise that you pay with a bank cheque for large sums of money and not cash."

He suggested people dealt with reputable providers or vendors that would allow you to visit or view what you are purchasing in advance of payment.

"Ask for full documentation before handing over any money."

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