Real estate site Zillow is calling Sacramento the 10 hottest housing market in the country. But renters eager to get into a place need to be cautious.

Broker Chris Palamidessi says two of his recent listings of homes for sale were posted by another individual on Craigslist – for rent.

“What they were doing is instead of charging an application fee, they wanted a gift card. They wanted a photo of that gift card to be texted to them, so they could access the money on that gift card,” Palamidessi said.

Luckily, none of the would-be renters followed through with the gift card application. But Rental Housing Association Senior Deputy Director Cory Koehler says there are a number of similar scams occurring in the Sacramento area.

“A scammer can actually create their own ad of a home that may or may not be a rental property and then scam somebody that way,” Koehler said.

In other cases, individuals collect applications for rentals so they can steal the renter’s personal information, and later, their identity.

So what’s a renter to do?

Koehler says to look for these warning signs in ads or conversations with property managers or owners: “You want to take this home off the market right away? We need you to wire money. We need cash upfront so we can take this home off the market.”

Koehler says any reputable owner or property manager will want to meet prospective tenants in person, speak with them at length, and show off the home in person.

He adds that it’s a good idea to ask for proof of ownership, such as a utilities bill. Renters can also contact the county assessor’s office to check a property’s ownership.

Lastly?

“Never deal with cash. Never deal with cash,” Koehler said.