BOZEMAN, Mont. -

A Bozeman family says they're relieved to find out they've finally been approved to rent a home in Belgrade -- but not along ago, the family worried they might be homeless after they say a rental scam cost them over $1,000.

Bozeman local James Russell helps his two and a half year old son Jimmy put together his train tracks. He's a stay at home dad, and this October he and his wife are expecting their second child.
"We just needed a bigger place," says Russell.

After a year of searching, they finally found their dream home on Love Lane, near Four Corners.

"We fell in love with it and, to me, hope is worth more than money," says Russell.

It was a listing on Craigslist -- a two bedroom at $840 a month, including utilities.

"It sounded too good to be true but we were just so frustrated with our living situation and we wanted to get out, we've been wanting to get out. We had a couple of other things fall through," explains Russell.

Russell says the woman told him she had moved back to Nevada to recover from a car crash and that rent was cheap because she wanted folks who would take care of the place.

"Everything seemed normal, up until the point where we went to get our keys," says Russell. Those keys never came. Russell says it cost his family $1,500, which he says they didn't have.

"I've never been homeless before. I try to be a good dad and provide for my family. I guess I just screwed up," says Russell.

When Russell called the real estate agent, the agent told him the house was never for rent. The person who signed the lease did own the house but he died.

We spoke to the current owner of the home. She tells us she was surprised and sad to hear her house was involved in a scam.

As for Russell, things are finally looking up.

"We have a place, we can move in at the end of the week," says Russell. He says he hopes other families won't have to go through what his family went through.

Detectives tell us they've seen apartment and rental scams before, and they encourage folks to do their research.

Look up the landlord's name to make sure he or she really owns the home. At some point, they say you should ask to speak with the landlord on the phone and, if possible in person. Don't just negotiate through emails and texts. Detectives say the biggest red flag is when someone asks you to wire money.