Los Angeles area rental scams are on the rise and what every renter needs to be aware of and how not to get scammed. This is a blog post that we wrote last year on Trulia. We’ve moved here because Trulia will not have blog posts after the new year. It’s received over 13,500 views and has helped many avoid the pitfalls of giving personal information or money to these types of rental scams.
It is becoming a common occurrence that scammers are copying our listings from the information in the MLS and putting in false information, rental rates and false phone numbers to call. The fake ads mimic the legit lease/rental listings with the following exceptions: the price is usually to good to be true and/or the fake ad will mimic our information to the tee with false contact info.
Craigslist is not the only avenue these criminals are using to scam you, there are inaccurate listings found now on Hot Pads, Trulia and Zillow as well.
We’ve had to check and recheck our lease listings because they have been used by the scammers on many of the major online services to either separate you from your money/identity or sell you a fake rental list.
You don’t want to give personal info, SSN, or monies to these people. Ads and prices may sound like a fairy tale but the nightmare that will soon follow because you’ve lost your money or worse yet someone has stolen your identity, becoming a headache for years to comes trying to clean up your credit and get your life back in order.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from these scammers:
- Perform a Google search of the property address, you’ll usually find that property is also listed by “a real estate company” and call the real estate company instead. Scammers are also using fake business names so check the department of real estate website for licensing info. http://www.dre.ca.gov/
- Cross check the property address over several online sources like Realtor.com, Zillow, Hot Pads, etc and see if you find different names & phone numbers listed as contact reference points.
- Keep an eye out for photos – do photos look altered? Are you finding duplicate photos with different contact names? Are photos blurred or appeared copied.
- Google the business name, address & phone number and see if there is a legit business address and verify that address is legit – drive by the business.
- Search Craigslist with the words “SCAM or SCAM ALERT” – these are warnings posted by agents and/or other renters.
- Never send money or personal info without meeting the owner and/or agent in person, preferably at place of business and/or at the property. *If property is listed by a real estate company – they usually have a real estate post sign on property.
- Never, never, never ever do a so called “FREE Credit Application” before you’ve seen the property, verified the info and decided that the property is for you. Most if not all homeowners and legit/real property management and real estate companies will require a credit check and there’s usually a charge for that as well. Why would you give someone access to “ALL” your personal info “FREE” credit application or not and you haven’t even seen the property?
- Ask owner for ID and check tax records to see if property and ID name match. If agent ask to see ID and business card and check Department of Real Estate website above and verify license.
- Do your homework – Google “Rent Scams” “Rental Scams” and read up on how it’s being done. Here’s a great article from the Better Business Bureau
- If still in doubt use a Realtor.
BEWARE Scams from 408-372-6358, a search of this number yields Google cached listings from all over the country, which are too cheap to be true. When contacted you get the standard, broken English email with ‘I’m out of town, can’t show house, fill out [weird application], and send deposit [which is also too cheap for house/area]’.
The number also goes to Google voice mail service when called with caller ID blocker.
Thank you Allan! I googled the number (408) 372-6358 and found your post! I was wary but your post verified my suspicions! Thank you!
i think that this property is a scam. Owner is supposedly in Phillippines and is asking to send money through a walmarT?? hhaha. on top of that, has no AGENT to show me the propert personally. I wante to flag this down and let the real owners know and others— be aware!
I sent an inquiry to email@example.com for a too good to be true rental and below is the response I received. SCAM!!!
Thanks for the reply, i am a family oriented and a good Christian I am looking for a responsible and neat tenant for my single family home that will take good care of my house.. I had to move to Virginia after having a surgery due to a car accident that affected my spinal cord to live with my family to get help from them in raising my kids,
I never wish to rent out my home but I had to due to my present condition so I decided to rent it out.
I’ve listed the house for sale and I am ready to take it off the market once I get someone who is ready to rent it
You can only drive by the house as I don’t have anyone to show you the inside, I will send you the inside pictures so that you can see what the inside of my house looks like because I am not dealing with a realtor concerning the renting of my house as I don’t have to pay one and that’s why the rent is low and the lower rent should be in exchange for the proper care of my house since I wont be around to take care of my home for a period of time.
My home is in good location with a conducive and good environment to raise kids,Pets are allowed because we also love them I also want you to know that my home is in good shape and everything in my home is working perfectly, my home already has amenities such as the refrigerator, dish washer, washer and dryer with hook ups, stove and gas cooker, all the utilities are also included in the month rent such has gas, electricity, water, garbage and the internet.
If you are still interested in my home I will send you the address of my house, the inside pictures and also send you the application form and once you put down the security deposit I will mail you the keys of the house and have it delivered to you through USPS next day delivery service , I will also email you the lease agreement once you are ready to sign it.
Note: Your deposit is refundable if you are not interested after receiving the keys and viewing the inside.
kindly send me your personal email address so that I can forward the application and details of the house to you.
You must also provide at least 2 references when filling the application form
Here from LA- we got an e-mail from Trulia for this house and sadly, it was too good to be true. It is for 656 Angelus Place, Venice, CA. Anyone can see this and hopefully avoid sending him the money.
TOTAL SCAM!!! be careful i search the house on many different websites and the house is actually for sale NOT for rent and the owner has a realtor. They just copied and pasted the pictures and info into Trulia.com and they are using a different email address it doesnt even match with the name they are giving as the owner of the place.
Thank you so much for your email and i really appreciate that you are interested on my property and you can also move in at your own convenient time. I must let you know that the utilities are include with the month rent and and not foreclosure the reason why we are not asking for too much was because we want any person or family moving into our home should take absolute care of the utilities and see that the whole house is kept clean and neat,we are God fearing family .There is a washer,dryer,hookup,garbage.electric,water. I can also allow you to lease for one year with option to extend.This utilities are include with this month rent garbage,electricity,heat,water are include and you will responsibility for the rest utilities and i want you to drive by the property to view from outside so we can move to next step on how you will get the entrance keys and all the paper work.we can extend your stay in our home and probably pay you visit once in every four month to ensure that we maintain a good relationship with you and the rest.If i see how good you are maintaining the house, I can extend you staying as long as you can stay.
I am renting myself due to bad experience within my Realtor and they have damage my home and it cost me a lot of money putting things back and also i will not be able to show you there property because i am currently in Manawa, WI due to my work i have to move with my Family and don’t worry yourself about in this issue because am not around to show you our home but all is in place to allow you move in at your own convenient time, i am giving you the 100 percent assurance that when you fill out the application form and i look at your reference then i will mail you the entrance keys and all the paper work for you to view the interior part of my home if you like it or not,if but you don’t like it i will instruct you to return the keys back and also if you like it you can start renting,if all arrangement is made promptly.I will be waiting to hear from you soon so i can send you the application form to fill and send back to me via email.. I will look forward to hear from you soon.Thanks
I await your urgent mail,
765) 237-9316 TXT ONLY
James E Gilmore
Phone # 845-377-0255 is a scam as well.
I almost fell into this trap, too. When I texted and emailed the info on the listing, I got a very nice email from ‘the owner’ but when they later said they were no longer working with the realtor and doing it themselves — and that I shouldn’t contact the realtor — a little red flag went up. I called the real to and sure enough SCAM. Glad I didn’t give a lot of personal information. The email that was used is firstname.lastname@example.org and the number I had to text was: 804-8850429. Shame on these people, but boy were they good. Had me almost fooled!
Here’s what they wrote when I contacted them. The biggest red flag was that they used the realto’s name as the sign off.
Thanks for your interest and inquiries about my house. Yes the house
is still available for rent and we are looking for a responsible
person/family to occupy and maintain the house now that we are not
around. Myself and Family just traveled to West Africa for a program
called FAMILY LIFE AND HIV EDUCATION AND THE HIV PREVENTION FOR RURAL
YOUTH PROGRAM, the program is taking place in three major countries in
Europe, Africa, UK . We will be away for 2 to 3 years or more that is
why I have made up my mind to put up my house for rent to whom ever
that will take good care of it.
Also how long do you intend to stay? How soon do you intend to move in?
FEATURES : Laundry, Electric Range, Electric Heat, Master Bedroom,
Playground, Car Park.AMENITIES: Air Conditioning, Patio/Party Deck,
Cable TV, Ceiling Fans, 24 hours Internet service, Dishwasher, Fire
pit, Garbage Disposal, Microwave, security alarm, Pets Friendly,
Refrigerator, Washer / Dryer.
DETAILS ABOUT THE HOUSE
Number of bedrooms:4
Number of bathrooms:2
Rental price: $1000 per month and security Deposit is $800(Security
Deposit is Refundable)
Utilities included in monthly rent Pets Welcome.
Below is the address to the house:
426 La Grande Ave Fanwood, NJ 07023
SO IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED I WILL WANT YOU TO FILL THE RENT APPLICATION
1)Your Full Name?
2)Your Full Address?
4)Are you married ?
5)Age & Email Address ?
6)How many people will be living in the house?
7)Do you have a pet?
8)Do you have a car?
10)When will you like to move in?
11)How long are you willing to stay in the property?
12)Picture of the occupant If Available?
13)When are you ready to Move In?
14)How Many Months are you willing to rent?
15) How many months rent can you pay upfront? Minimum ( 1month +
SECURITY DEPOSIT ) or ( 2 months + SECURITY DEPOSIT ), so which option
do you prefer ???
In case you see any sign board, they are the Realtor in charge of my
house before I decided to take over by my self. I am no more working
with them and don’t bother to contact them because formerly i wanted
to sell the house before me and my Lovely Family now decided to rent
it out instead of selling it out.
Looking forward to hearing from you with all this details so that I
can have it in my file in case of issuing the receipt for you and
contacting you.Awaiting your urgent reply so that we can discuss on
how to get the document and the key to you. We may not see, yet we are
only putting everything into Gods hand, kindly do not let us down in
your taking care of our property and God bless you more as you do this
They also said:
Thanks for your quick response and interest you have regarding my
house, I want you to know that the house is still available for you to
move in at any time you like okay, and also i want you to know that
due to the fact that i am not in the states now,you can only drive by
the house and view it from the exterior part,but i want to re assure
you that you will love the interior part as soon as you move in..Yes
ther is a back yard in the house..The money will be made via Western
union with my full payment information…Yeah i want you to know that
am no longer dealing with the Realtor any more okay…
Thanks and Remain Blessed
I now only use Realtor and GSMLS to search for properties.
Limit your searches to Realtor.co, since these are all vetted. Trulia does does not safeguard the integrity of their listings. And they have terrible customer service.
very useful and essential info for every one, Thanks
So glad I looked and did my reserch, this just happen to me and I am just glad i didnt give my 30notice. This was to good to be true please be very careful.
Thank heavens I am no dumbo. I found a 4 bedroom and 3 baths house listed for rent in Valley Stream, NY FOR $1,400 a month (big red flag). The number listed is 214-247-6973 and claims her name is Wen H. Liam. Below are the texts
ave you swing by to view from the outside, I have relocated to Dover,DE with my family the water,heat,trash,and electricity are include with the rent you eed to look it from the outside first, am only looking to rent the house and not selling it anymore. i am renting myself i don’t have any agent or elative around i want to rent it myself, there is washer,dryer,hookups and all appliances included.Pets are allowed.
have the keys here with me i am renting myself not dealing with the agent anymore, i can mail it to you and secure the house for you asap,do you have ood credit and reference?the deposit is 1000 the lease will be for 1 year with an option to renew it do you have work and landlord references and you canrovide pay-stub?the house is in a perfect condition.If anything goes wrong with the pipe or anything just contact me i will make arrangement for repair
his is legitimate and not a scam i do understand where you coming from, otherwise all the same. I feel i should not pressure you since i cannot come down o meet with you, at this time because of my work but if it’s the WILL OF GOD for you to live in my house all things will work for good
And this was my response
If this isnt a scam why would you rent your property to someone you hv never met? It seems like the money is the main concern here. Nice try and please dont use the lord’s name in vain.
I didnt get another response after this.
inquired about a property listed for a 3 bedroom 2 1/2 bath for an incredible price of 1500 a month
I inquired and was sent the below response.
Thank you for the most eloquent response to my listing, I’m the owner of the apartment you are making inquiry of. Actually i resided in the apartment with my family, before, and presently we had packed due to my transfer from my church where i work for and now situated in (west africa,Nigeria) and presently my Apartment is still available for rent and I’m not willing to sale my apartment anymore. It include the Utilities such as Dishwasher,Fridge , Stove ,Assigned / Secured parking ,Fitness facilities ,microwave , Washer , Dryer , Cable /Satellite ,Internet connectivity ,Storage locker,Fireplace,Packing, I have my furniture in the Apartment if you which to move in with your furnished items, no problem.you can put my own furniture in the store, Please i want you to note that i’m a kind and honest man and also i spent a lot on my property that i want to give you for rent, i will want you to take absolute care of my Apartment and I want you to treat it as your own, money is not the most important thing but i want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come for a check up.I look forward to hearing from you asap so i have included an Application Form to fill out below,fill it out and send it back to me and discuss on how to get the apartment for rent,…Looking forward to hear from you soon.so if you are Ok with this please return the application form in your next e-mail. Like i said earlier we are not just after the rent money,but you have to promise to keep the Apartment tidy always.
Rental : Utilities Included
Heating features: Central, Electric Source
Status: Active & Available Now
Lease terms: Short & Long term
RENTAL APPLICATION FORM
( Private and Confidential )
1)Your Full Name_________________________ ____________
2)Present Address(where you reside now) & Phone ________________________ _______
3)How old are you___________________________ __
4)Are you married _ _____________________________ _____
5)Occupation __ _________________________
6)Current rent payment ____ __________________________ ___________
7)Reason for moving out?_______ _________
8)How many people will be living in the apartment ____________ _________________
10)How long are you willing to stay _______ ____________________-
11)When do you intend to move in ___
12)Do you have a pet ______________________________ _______
13)Do you smoke
14)Pictures of the Occupant that will stay in our home ? Can send photo
Awaiting your reply soon. May you and your family continue to be blessed
Good post–got to share the info out there so people stay safe in their search for a home, whether renting or buying!
BEWARE OF SCAMMERS ON TRULIA RENTALS FROM WEST AFRICA!
If it sounds too good to be true…it is! Red Flags, utilities included, low rent, ignore the real estate sign
From: lovely asluum
Date: Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 10:23 AM
Subject: Rental Home
Oh my. I just saw the exact same emails that were sent to me by Mr. “Frank Weber” on here I gave basic info but not ssn or anything like that. It is a shame that these so called ” missionaries” use God for scaming people shame on them. The house I was looking to rent is a two story three bedroom two bathroom house in Pflugerville Tx.
Great blog – I have had several inquires about rental properties recently that seemed to be listed much lower than average. It’s one thing seeing this stuff on craigslist, but these listings were found on trusted sites like Zillow and Trulia
Has anyone ever heard of the California Rental Project californiarentalproject.com? My friend saw a too-good-to-be-true listing on trulia and ended up giving them $50 app fee for an apartment that she never saw. They keep contacting her regarding the payment being processed, etc.. Do you think this is a scam to get people to pay them $50?
I’m trying to figure out if this is a scam myself. I sent them $50 with my application, and I received an email saying I was pre-approved. However, after that—NOTHING. I’ve been having a difficult time getting a hold of anyone, and today when I called the number on their site the guy was no help at all. He basically told me that the number I called was only for customer service, and that they don’t have a number for their rental agents/realtor. He told me the only way to contact them was through the “contact us” form. If they are scammers, they better believe they messed with the wrong person.
THIS JUST IN:
I sent $50 with my application fee to get pre-approved to view an apartment from California Rental Project, aka Sunshine Realty LLC. A month later, I was told I am “near the top” of their call back list, but that they can’t ensure i’ll even get to SEE an apartment, much less rent one. HOWEVER, all of the apartments I saw a month ago are still available. They are taking an easy $50 from people and pretending that these apartments are for sale. NOWHERE on their website(californiarentalproject.com) does it mention that there is apparently a long call list and they won’t even be able to schedule a showing for you. Their site says after a 2 week processing period of your application, you can call and schedule an appointment. Also, I had been trying to call for a week to find out what’s going on, but no one picked up the phone. And when they did, they informed me the phone number listed on the website (which is stated on the website as the direct number for the rental specialist), is in fact their “customer service” number. The customer service agent then informed me that he could not direct my call to an agent and that the only way to contact them was via their contact form on their website. I am still waiting for them to schedule an apartment viewing, and I’ve demanded a refund. But since this is a scam, I probably will not see that $50 back from them. Do NOT trust California Rental Project or anything posted by Sunshine Realty LLC.
I would like to know if it is a scam or not to find a rent of a one or two bed room for, lets say 800-950 with all utilities paid for or is that a sign of a scam? I am sorry I am new at this and it will be my first time moving out. I really want to stay in LA. thank you
So it seems I got sucked into this scam. I guess it was worth a try, $50 in exchange for an unbelievable rent. Well, it’s a lesson I already knew but ignored anyways. If it’s too good to be true it probably is not true. So here’s how my little investigation went:
1. Info found on Trulia
2. Trulia sent me to California Rental Project.
3. California rental project sent me to:some other site
4. This site sent me to:dhdmedia site
5. That site sent me to: superlowrentals
6. In Terms of Service it talks about Amazingapartmentrentals
7. The payment page in “4” also talks about amazing apartment rentals
8. This operation seems to be affecting East and West coast. Cities they claim to operate in are: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, and Boston.
9. Here are the numbers I was able to scavenge from their different sites:
New York: 347-625-7922.
Los Angeles County: 213-282-3868
San Francisco Bay: 415-233-6604
New York Apartments: 646-650-5533
Boston Apartments Call: 617‐631‐8774
Payment company dhdmedia: 3102586200
10. The payment company is the only one that is consistently reachable. Their link is:http://www.identitymindglobal.com/idmpay/customer-support.html
I do not know if they are simply being used by the scammers or they have something to do with them.
11. My last hope is to dispute the charge with the credit card company if the payment processing company above fails to refund me.
I hope more people report these crooks to all the possible venues, including BBB, Trulia, forums, maybe police or FBI and whoever else. If it is a legit company, it would not need to have so many other sites floating around.
Similar to “Private’s” situation, now there is a website called amazingapartmentrentals.com, it looks like that’s the newer version of the scam he was involved in before. Wish the deals were true. They asked for a $50 App fee as well. I will make sure to stay away from it.