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Fake rental listings: Scammers use Boise homes for sale to make cash

The scammers promised to send over the keys for the house if renters wired them half of a month's rent (Photo Courtesy of Nikki Kellum).

After discovering that someone had listed her home as 'for rent' on craigslist, a Boise woman is warning others about a scam targeting renters.

Nikki Kellum said she listed her home as 'for sale' on Zillow and days later started getting dozens of calls from hopeful renters.

"I couldn't believe that this was happening," said Kellum. "Quite a few victims, actually. [They] had already sent in processed application fees for the house."

The scammers promised to send over the keys for the house if renters wired them half of a month's rent. They even claimed to be deaf and told renters it was best to communicate through email.

"Anybody who is desperate for a rental, and in a tight market we have lots of people desperate for rentals, they are going to be more willing to take a step of faith and send a deposit to someone they have never seen and a property they have never been into and then lose all that money," said Dale Dixon, Chief Innovation Officer for the Better Business Bureau Northwest.

He told CBS 2 News that this is common scheme. He said hundreds of thousands of dollars are lost every month to scams just like it throughout the country. Boise is particularly vulnerable, however, because the city's rapid growth is causing a tight rental market.

Dixon recommends renters take the time to do their homework, like visiting the property first and meeting the landlord, to save themselves a lot of trouble.

As for sellers, he recommends watermarking your photos online so that scammers cannot easily copy and paste them onto other sites.

If you're a renter in Idaho, the Housing and Finance Association offers a program that acts as a sort of safety net in helping identify legitimate or fake rental homes.

If you find yourself the victim of a scam, report it to your local police as well as the Better Business Bureau.

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