Beware apartment rental site asking for money upfront, says BBB
The BBB says it received a call from a parent who tried to find housing for his son through the site. He said he paid the company $250 upfront by wiring the money. But the father grew concerned when the company would not respond to phone calls.
On its site, the company says the process involves finding landlords who lease apartments or homes without checking someone's credit score. The company claims it will do all the work to help the user find a place to live.
The company asks for an upfront retainer of $250 and lists four payment methods. Consumers are directed to pay at any Wells Fargo location by giving the bank the account name Desert Rentals and the account number listed on the website. They can also pay by wiring the money, using a credit or debit card, or going to a Money Gram location.
The BBB says the nature of the website and its upfront free requirement raises a red flag. Other concerns are the inability to reach a live person, calls going unreturned, and an absence of information about where the company's operators are located.
The company lists a dozen phone numbers for consumers to call. When Consumer Ally tried a couple of the numbers, the same person answered the phone even though the area codes dialed were different. Consumer Ally was told to send an e-mail instead of calling.
The BBB has a report on file for a Phoenix-based company called Desert Rentals Southwest, Inc., which has an F rating. A website called azdesertrentals.com shows up as therentaloffice.info. The BBB also has a file for The Rental Office, which also has an F rating and lists a Canada address.
The BBB is urging anyone who believes they may be a victim of this rental scheme to contact their local police and the FBI's Internet Complaint Center.