Valley renters scammed by fabricated or duplicated listings

It's a nice house in a quiet Chandler neighborhood and Julie Wilson wanted to rent it.
 
She found it on the rental/sales website Trulia.com.
 
It was the best deal she found.
 
Julie says for $850, the house had new paint, tile, appliances, pets welcome and all utilities included.
 
So, Julie answered the ad.
 
She got an e-mail back saying that the owner "relocated to Little Rock." 
 
The e-mail talked about doing God's work and told Julie to go by the house and take a look.
 
Julie did that. She looked in the windows and liked what she saw.
 
So, she sent the $600 security deposit as requested in the form of Money Pak, a money-order like sending cash.
 
In another part of the Valley, Tom Mathein had renters coming to his door.
 
His house was listed on a website called Hotpads.com as a rental.
 
He says, "at $800 a month in this area, it would have been a really good deal."
 
Tom took a look at rental ad, and was shocked.
 
"There was my whole name, my whole address, everything about the house, pictures," he said.
 
This took Tom buy surprise because he wasn't renting his home, he was selling it. Someone had copied his sales ad, and listed it online as a rental.
 
"They just took it. Somebody is scamming somebody, trying to make $800 off someone who is unsuspecting," said Tom.
 
They used his name, but used their phone number and e-mail address.
 
"Having someone impersonate you, that's scary," he said.
 
After Julie sent money for her Chandler rental, she found herself waiting for the keys.
 
"He kept telling me over and over again he couldn't do it that day because it snowed real hard or he couldn't do it that day because he was in church all day," she says.
 
The excuses kept piling up. Then the "owner" wanted Julie to send the first month's rent.
 
She decided to do some research and found the home listed on another website, not for rent, but for sale. She had been scammed.
 
"I was devastated. I lost $600. I don't know who I can trust," she said.
 
It's important to keep yourself protected. Be wary of prices that are too low, out of town landlords who you can't meet, and listings that request payment in cash.
 
Make sure to pay with a check so if there is an issue, you have the ability to cancel payment. Another piece of advice is to talk with neighbors, but more important, check the deed with the County Assessor's Office to make sure the property owner matches the name listed online.
 
Both Hotpads.com and Trulia.com removed the faux listings when they were made aware of them.
 
In a statement, Hotpads.com says: "In this case, the listing has been removed from HotPads and the user blocked from posting additional listings.
 
What security measures does HotPads.com and Trulia.com take to ensure accurate and current rental and for sale home listings?
 
HotPads says users must submit a phone number and a 4-digit verification code is sent to the phone as a text message or a voice call. That code must be entered to post a listing.
 
Trulia also works to ensure that listings are accurate by double-checking phone numbers and verifying IP addresses.
 
Both websites also have posted warnings, along with tips, users can follow to potentially identify a property scam.
 
E-mail me with any consumer trouble or "like" my Let Joe Know Facebook page and tell me about it there. You can also call our "Let Joe Know" helpline at 1-855-323-1515. Assistance League of Phoenix volunteers are staffed Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or you can leave a message anytime.
 
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