Rental scams are becoming more prominent as the demand for housing in Bozeman booms.
Bozeman resident Taylor Olson says she found a 3 bedroom 2.5 bath property near downtown Bozeman for $15,000 a month on Apartments.com. When she reached out to tour the property, she received an odd email that made her realize this listing was a scam. The email read:
"Hello, my house is still available. Here is all I can say about myself for now. We are a Christian family and followers of Christ as much as humanly possible and always keep our word. We will be away for eight years or more. So if you're interested in occupying my house, you may take a drive-by to view the exterior part of the house and get back to me with your filled-out application form.”
Olson is not alone.
Bozeman Police Detective Jacob Ahmann says they see about a dozen rental scams a year.
"I've been here seven years and I feel like we've seen it pretty much since I've been here," said Ahmann. "I think we've seen a larger uptick, obviously, as the housing market has gotten more competitive.”
Ahmann says most of these scams occur during the early fall or spring, and that these scammers seem to ask for money upfront because of the competitive market.
“Once the money gets sent, contact ceases and the individual finds out that the rental was never even available,” said Ahmann.
Thankfully, Ahmann says that most of the calls the police receive are not from people who have actually fallen for the scam.
"I'd say the majority of them are usually people calling in to make us aware that there's a scam going on, but they're not actually out the funds yet," said Ahmann.
I reached out to the Gallatin Valley Rental Group LLC and asked them how they advise people to look for scams. They said to check the Montana Cadastral to see if the tax record matches the person you are speaking with about the property if they are not a licensed property manager.
As for Olson, she’s learned a valuable lesson while looking for a new rental.
"A lot of rental properties that are out there right now are usually above $2000, so I think if it's under that and looks pretty nice, a lot of it is probably too good to be true," said Olson.
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