3OYS: Valley rental scam continues to rip people off

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- For Alyssa Huff and her fiance, it's an exciting time. Not only are they planning their wedding, but they're packing up their belongings and moving.

Huff told 3 On Your Side, "We found a house which was perfect. I mean, we're getting married in March, so I think it would be really nice to have a house instead of an apartment."

The home they found for rent is a quaint, little three-bedroom house located in Peoria. Huff found the home using her smartphone and visiting different websites.

"There were pictures of the inside and the outside. Everything really looked great. It looked like it had recently been upgraded," Huff said.

She called the number found in the ad and talked to someone who claimed to be the owner of the Peoria home. That person lived out of state but seemed eager to rent the home to Huff and even sent her a rental agreement to get things moving.

"Well, at first they said that money wasn't an issue to them and that they just wanted someone who would really take care of their house," Huff said.

Not wanting to get ripped off, Huff visited the Maricopa County Assessor's website to make sure the name on property records matched the name of the person she talked to. The name matched, so Huff had no problems wiring $500 to a man listed on her Western Union receipt. She was told that he was kind of like the accountant for the homeowner.

"It sounded really legitimate. They said they were having their lawyer draw up a lease and an application," she said.

It turns out, Huff was right in the middle of a scam. That so-called accountant she wired the money to was actually the con-man who found the home for sale on the Internet. He then cropped the photos and pasted them on different websites saying the house was actually for rent.

He even went a step further by going to the county assessor's page to discover the real owner's name and used that name when talking to people like Huff in order to gain their trust.

Huff says after wiring the money, she realized she had been duped. She asked several times for the scammer to return the money. However, nothing was ever returned.

Huff says it's a bitter pill to swallow and hopes other people out there looking to rent realize to never wire money to someone you don't know.

"Yeah, I had a hard time sleeping that night. It was pretty rough," she  said. "I wouldn't recommend anymore using an app on your phone or the Internet because you never know if it's real."