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Fake rental ads investigation prompts fraud alert from state

The California Bureau of Real Estate has issued a fraud alert after a growing number of scams targeting renters.
October 17, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Last week, Eyewitness News exposed a rental agency that was selling lists of apartments that turned out not to be available or, in some cases, exist at all.

After our story aired, hundreds of Eyewitness News viewers commented on our Facebook page about running into problems with this company and others.

In our report, I interviewed former employees of L & B Rentals, who said during the time they worked there, the $150 paid by clients for the rental listings was rarely returned, and in fact, they said L & B would use that money to pay employees at the end of the day.

"Everybody got paid for whatever customers they brought in that day," said former employee Judith Kurtz.

We also reported that L & B had received a desist and refrain order from the California Bureau of Real Estate for operating without the proper real estate license.

But when I visited L & B's offices last week, we found they were still open for business.

When we phoned L & B Rentals the day of our report, we were told they are no longer called L & B.

The California Bureau of Real Estate says changing the name of a business may be one way for them to avoid potential prosecution.

"These types of companies frequently change their names. Oftentimes it's the same players behind the scenes. So that's what our investigation will encompass now is determining whether they are the same people in fact as L & B Rentals or someone totally new," said Phil Ihde with the Bureau of Real Estate.

Also on Facebook, we received responses from viewers who said they had the same issues with different listing agencies.

One viewer wrote, "I was a victim. I paid $215 for a listing and got nothing."

Another wrote, "I got scammed off Craigslist 5 years ago by an 'agency' and that was such a hard time for me financially. Never wanted to see it happen to anyone else again!!!"

The former Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles, now known as the Business Consumer Alliance, says they've received numerous complaints about other rental listing agencies using the same tactics.

"We've seen a rash of complaints, an influx actually, for various companies; it's not just tied to one company. There are a number of these types of rental listing scams popping up all over the Southland," said Kiry Peng with the Business Consumer Alliance.

The California Bureau of Real Estate has issued a fraud alert and warning to consumers because they say there is a "growing number of scams being perpetrated against consumers seeking to rent homes and apartments."

"What we want to caution people is to never pay cash for these types of services. There are plenty of services available out there that will take a credit card or a check, something you have the ability to get your money back if you find out that it's fraudulent," said Ihde.


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