BOZEMAN - The Internet is a popular resource for people to look for rental properties, but it can also be a tool for scammers to lure people in to false rentals.
A woman who works in the Bozeman area is in shock after someone listed her three bedroom home for rent on Craiglist.
The impact of the scam is such that the woman asks to remain anonymous in this story because she feared it might hurt the sale of her house.
She thinks its important to share her experience to keep people from falling victim to online rental scams.
"At first I felt a lot of anger. I'm surprised that someone went to this length to post my home. Then I ran across all the additional details and steps this person is taking to make this a believable thing, it just became very scary."
Some of those 'additional details' included telling potential renters not to be surprised if you find the home with another site or price, you can drive to the house anytime and take a look at the area and surroundings. You can also peek through the windows.
"Within the first 24 hours of the ad being posted most of them actually came out to the property."
She said there were about 15 people who called the real estate about the ad.
"They would just walk up to the property or if they drove out they would park in front of property, get out of their vehicle and start coming into the gate. It was nearly impossible to get a hold of Craigslist for them to remove the ad and that was echoed by the police that there really wasn't much done to remove the post."
That's when this single mom decided to get the police involved. Bozeman Police Community Resource Officer, Charley Gappmayer said the department has seen an increase of Craigslist scams over the last year.
"Sometimes it might include a picture," said Gappmayer. "It will be a very generalized description of the property and will rarely have a phone number provided."
The emails will typically have a lot of grammatical mistakes and will not read smoothly.
For example, "I receive your mail indicating your interested in my home for rent and I hope you are serious about this."
Or--"We need someone to take good care of our property on our absent."
In the last six months, the police department has received about 20 calls reported as frauds, but Gappmayer says there are more.
"Ultimately, the person is asked to pay money up front to rent the property," said Gappmayer. "The renter will send a certain amount of money via Western Union and come to find out the property wasn't even for rent."
Gappmayer recommends renters take steps to make sure a property is legitimate.
"I would recommend that you look at the price and make sure it matches other properties in the area," said Gappmayer. "It also doesn't hurt to contact a local real estate company."
Gappmayer said a lot of these scammers will also tell you that they can't meet because they are doing missionary work.