A recent post at TruliaBlog boasted that:
As online rentals fraud is becoming an industry-wide problem, Trulia is committed to keeping our rental listings scam-free and accurate. While tackling this problem and keeping up with fraudsters is an ongoing task, we have taken a few initial steps to reduce fraud and protect our valued customers.
The “few initial steps” – which you can read about in the linked blog post – don’t address the most common form of fraud in Chicago-area rental ads, i.e. the bait-and-switch posts from the rental services that we routinely refer to as bedbugs.
It takes only a few seconds to find fraudulent ads on Trulia – just look for listings that are headlined as “Address Not Disclosed” and / or placed by one of the bedbugs on our rental service do-not-call list. The odds are high that following up on the ad will waste your time – or worse.
The first ad I drilled in on using the rules I just provided brought me to an ad for a River North studio that’s $100 a month below what the management company lists it for at its Web site. And the bedbug-placed ad endows the building with a roster of amenities it simply doesn’t have.
It isn’t sufficient to avoid “Address Not Disclosed” / identifiable bedbug ads. A search for rentals in ZIP code 60654 – River North – surfaces the ad in the above screen cap. I’ve flagged it as fraudulent at Trulia, and you can follow this link to see whether they remove it.
A fully furnished, highly-upgraded 2-bedroom, 2-bath with in-unit washer / dryer at 33 W Ontario for $1,000 a month? Sure.
Fraud is so pervasive in online rental advertising, and the bedbugs have honed their skills over such a long period of time, that it simply can’t be addressed by any Web site. The only solution is high-profile criminal prosecutions and license revocations. That’s a solution we’re unlikely to see in Illinois, which has a long-standing history of not taking effective action (hell, any action) against the abuses of this segment of the real estate brokerage industry.
If you’re looking to rent in downtown Chicago, Lincoln Park or Lake View, YoChicago has an easy way for you to avoid rental service rental fraud. You’ll find almost every rental option in those areas on our rental lists and maps, and useful tips about the neighborhoods in our rental Guides. Skip all online rental advertising and deal directly with a landlord. You’re likely to save money as well as avoiding hassles.
Added: I wrote the following post, at Trulia, last November: