PHOENIX — As Valley renters continue having a tough time finding anything affordable, scammers are making it even tougher. They're using new tactics to lure in people desperate to find any place to live.
Carlos tells ABC15 it's been very frustrating trying to find a rental.
"Everywhere I call, it's already been leased, or they have 10 applicants ahead of me," he says.
With demand high and supply low, average metro Phoenix rental prices range from about $1,400 to $2,000.
So, when Carlos saw a listing on apartments.com for a two-bedroom home at $1,000 a month, he jumped at it. "I said OK, I need to do this. I need to get this house," he says.
He emailed the landlord, sent his application, and asked to see the place before sending the $2,000 move-in deposit.
He was told he'd get the keys after sending the money. "I'm like, uh, a little hesitant but I need to be aggressive," Carlos remembers.
Some of it seemed legitimate. Carlos had the address from the posting, drove by a few times, and found the house empty. The name of the person he dealt with has the same name as the home's real owner — Todd.
So, Carlos sent the $2,000 through the payment app, Zelle.
When the landlord wanted more money, Carlos refused and he didn't hear from that Todd again.
But, after finding the number for Todd — the real owner — Carlos texted and got a response.
It said in part, "I'm really sorry. I did not rent this house to you. I currently have tenants."
We took Carlos back to the Phoenix house and did find a couple who just moved in paying $2,000 monthly, twice what Carlos was offered from the scammer.
In an email, the real owner Todd says his posting was on Zillow. He says he contacted Apartments.com wanting a removal when he heard his listing was stolen and being misused there.
It appears the listing was still up days later when Carlos saw it.
Our Let Joe Know team is still looking into that and Carlos is looking back on the whole experience.
"I looked over the email correspondence and thought how could I have missed all the red flags," he says.
There were red flags, like rent far below similar units, a landlord out of town and not being able to meet or show the unit, and demanding instant payment before even getting started.
"It's been tough. I'm stressed. I feel defeated. I can't believe I fell for this," Carlos says.
A lot of people are getting scammed this way right now.
Carlos is still looking for an affordable two-bedroom rental. If you know of a real one, let me know.
And just to show how bold these scammers can be, we replied to the same scammer about the same listing. Even though it had been taken down months ago, we got a reply.
Using the same stolen name, the scammer answered, "Yes it is available. Fill out the application and send it back."
But we all know how that would end.
Click here, to learn more about protecting yourself against rental scams.