A property scammer has allegedly been preying on Hawke's Bay's dire housing situation by advertising false listings of rental houses that don't exist.
The scammer is using what is believed to be a fake name - "Stevie Marie" - on Facebook, alongside what is thought to be a fake profile photo.
The scammer is claiming to be a property manager with a legitimate firm - real estate and rental company Harcourts.
General manager of Harcourts Napier James Cooper said "Stevie Marie" had no connection to Harcourts, and it was insulting that she was exploiting the company's good name.
"I can 100 per cent clarify that this 'woman' has no connection with Harcourts whatsoever," Cooper said.
"She's just trading off our good name and for Harcourts, having been voted most trusted real estate agent in the country for the last six years, for her to do that is just really insulting to all of us who work hard and long hours to keep our high standard."
The scammer has taken legitimate pictures of homes advertised online and presented them on social media as two-bedroom homes with a cheap rental rate.
The modus operandi is similar to the online phenomenon of catfishing, the practice of using fake names and photos to interact with unsuspecting people for emotional or financial reasons.
Demand for rental properties in Hawke's Bay is high.
Hawke's Bay Today was alerted to the scam via a social media post warning people to ignore the offer.
The post also said someone had trusted the scammer and handed over an undisclosed amount of money as a deposit.
Harcourts and police want to hear from anyone who thinks they have been scammed.
Cooper said people should always contact Harcourts directly if they had any concerns about who they are dealing with.
"I feel sorry for those who have fallen victim to this scam, but I advise that people who think they are dealing with a scammer using the Harcourts name should contact us directly or look at the list of agents on our website to clarify."
Police said they had received a report related to an alleged property scam in Hawke's Bay and were investigating.