3 On Your Side
3 On Your Side

Don't fall for rental ripoff

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Julio Rodriguez considers himself a pretty good roommate. He keeps things clean and pays his rent on time.

However, Rodriguez is looking for a change and is considering moving.

"I just want to be in a place where violence is not too high. I don't think that's too much to ask,” he said

So, Rodriguez got on to Craigslist and put up an ad saying he was looking for a place to rent.

It wasn't long before a guy emailed Rodriguez saying he had a beautiful home in Cave Creek for rent.

He even forwarded Rodriguez pictures of the home.

Rodriguez said he was impressed with the home and replied asking how monthly rent was.

"And when he said $600 a month and I said 'why?'" in disbelief. "Oh gosh, it's a gorgeous home and it's not a $600 a month house."

Rodriguez was excited about the house and the so-called homeowner who claimed to be out of state forwarded him a generic rental application asking things like name, address, and rent.

"It was so simple I couldn't believe my eyes," said Rodriguez.

In fact, it was so simple Rodriguez became suspicious.

He became even more skeptical when the guy started texting him at 2:30 in the morning.

Rodriguez said no one sends text messages to conduct business at that time of night.

He then realized the whole ordeal was a scam when the guy asked him to send the first month's rent and a $350 security deposit for a total of $950.

"I immediately thought of you, Gary Harper and 3 On Your Side," he said.  "Because you thought it was a scam?" Harper asked

"Yes, definitely."

He's right.

3 On Your Side went to the Cave Creek house that was reportedly for rent and spoke directly to the owner who said he's selling his house, but not renting it.

"People are actually using your house to scam people," Harper told the owner. "Well, my reaction is I'm not surprised," homeowner Joe Traina said.

Traina said he is not surprised because he’s heard of the scam before but never knew he would be part of it.

Here’s how it works.

Traina’s real estate agent posted pictures of his house on the internet like most realtors do.

It was posted as "for sale."

The scammer then copied those pictures and is re-using them as his own to lure potential rental victims like Rodriguez.

The bad guys in these scams are typically overseas.

If you listen to one of the voice mails left for Rodriguez, you can detect that it’s long distance and the scammer has a very thick and hard to understand foreign accent.

"Please get back to me. I want to talk to you right now. Okay? Very good, talk to you soon," the scammer said in his voice mail.

Rodriguez said he’s glad he didn’t fall for it.

"It's terrible that someone would take advantage of people like that. It just sickens me." he said.

Traina, the legitimate homeowner agrees.

"It's disturbing. There are more scammers out there than you can point a finger at these days."

If you’re looking to rent a place, don’t be fooled by lowball monthly rents that get your attention.

Always meet the landlord at the property in question.

Make sure that person gives you a tour of the inside of the rental.

Do not hand over your security deposit or first month’s rent until you have the keys in your hand.

If you are told the keys will be mailed to you, it’s most likely a scam. 

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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