BOISE -- Online rental property scams are on a rise throughout the Treasure Valley. Experts attribute it to the growth in the rental housing market.
Property management groups tell us the fake online ads are asking renters for big bucks up front.
Here's what happens: a scammer often takes a homeowner's information and pictures of a property, creates a bogus rental advertisement online, and then collects deposit fees and other bogus charges from prospective renters who are also fooled.
A NAMPA HOMEOWNER'S STORY
Jenn Nicolaysen is a homeowner in Nampa who recently listed her house through a property management group.
She said just days later she realized she was the center of a scam when people started stopping by expecting to see a vacant home.
"Terrifying to have people come to your house and peer in your windows and expect to see an empty home," said Nicolaysen.
Nicolaysen tells us someone took her address, information about her house, and her name, along with her husband's, and posted it all online in a fake ad.
Then, potential renters who stopped by, said they had spoken with her husband, and were considering sending in a $500 deposit to rent her home.
"It was a complete scam, it wasn't my husband at all, and he was saying to send a deposit to an account in Texas," said Nicolaysen.
Nicolaysen says the scam targets those looking to rent, and but it also victimizes homeowners like herself.
"I was angry, first of all that they had my name and were using it to hurt others," said Nicolaysen.
She says possible renters looking for a good home, could in fact be looking at a hoax.
"Not only are they out the money but they are planning to move into a home that may not exist or already have tenants in it," said Nicolaysen.
Property manager Tom McClung with Metro Management in Boise says it's something they see often.
He warns that you should be wary of any ad asking for money up front.
"You're talking at least $1,000 to $2,000, but they say we'll give you the first month free," said McClung.
He says unfortunately these crimes are only happening more often now that the rental real estate market is doing better.
"It's a landlord friendly market right now, rents are up and vacancies are low, so they are really preying on the consumer out there," said McClung.
If you do see a "For Rent" sign outside a home, you should always call the company listed.
We talked with several property groups who say they see these scams several times each month.