Bogus Zillow ad leaves family of 3 homeless, woman says

A Florida mother and her two small children were left homeless after she said someone posing as a landlord ripped her off.

Amber Peterson said she toured a home she found through a listing on Zillow.com, but Orange County property records indicate the actual homeowner lives in Australia.

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"I came for a showing for the house," she said. "I got a showing of the house. It was nice."

After touring the home, Peterson said the man she met provided her with a lease that named a Jefferson Bryan as the landlord and listed a move-in date of Aug. 22.

"He met me here," she said. "We did another walk through. The keys automatically opened the door. It was no hassle, no problem."

Peterson said she got money orders to pay the man nearly $2,000 in rent and a deposit. She said everything went well until she received a phone call Wednesday.

"I was literally in tears, crying," Peterson said.

Orlando police told Peterson that the home's true owner wanted her to move out as soon as possible.

Zillow said the advertisement was bogus. The website said its fraud team investigated and removed the rental listing within hours.

The company emailed WFTV the following statement:

Zillow goes to great lengths to police activity and fully inform our users of the existence of scams and how to protect themselves. Our customer support team routinely polices activity on the sites in a number of different ways and if a rental listing is found to be fraudulent, it is immediately removed from Zillow. In this case, Zillow investigated and removed this rental listing within hours of being notified that it was fraudulent.

Every rental listing on Zillow has a "Beware of Rental Scams" message at the top of the page, telling users to look out for red flags like requests for wire transfers and long-distance inquiries, and directing them to our fraud and scams page, which provides valuable information about how to avoid fraudulent listings.

WFTV called the man who Peterson said took her money, but the man who answered said it was the wrong number.

"I'm pretty much homeless," Peterson said.

Orlando police said a report on the incident was not immediately available.