Kristin Valdivia and her fiancé bought their first home in February, a three-bedroom house in south San Diego.
“We fell in love with that house, and ended up buying it,” said Valdivia.
A few weeks later she noticed people standing on the sidewalk, some even peeking through her window.
"A couple came by and they were hanging out in front of the house and I thought, 'Well, what’s going on? So I sent my fiancé out and to talk to them and they were like, 'Oh yeah, we just came by to check out the house.'"
"I was in shock at first; I mean, I was kind of in panic mode," Valdivia added. "Did our paperwork not go through? Did we not do everything properly?"
That’s when Valdivia realized she was caught up in a growing rental scam impacting potential renters throughout San Diego.
That scam: fake "for rent" ads posted on popular websites by scammers in hopes of convincing hopeful renters to send deposits.
Some local experts believe high rents and occupancy rates drive the increase in fake rental ads, according to Alan Pentico, executive director for the San Diego County Apartment Association.
"If it sounds too good to be true than it probably is," Pentico told NBC 7 Responds in a May interview.
It doesn’t help that San Diego County is a top-five market nationwide for two-bedroom apartment rentals, according to a report by Apartment List.
Living in a competitive market means homes like Valdivia’s are a hot commodity on rental websites.
While researching her address on those sites, Valdivia found a fake Craigslist ad for her house priced at $800. The ad stated the owners had to leave immediately and needed to rent their place quickly.
"There were pictures of the outside of my house and the inside is someone else's house," Valdivia told NBC 7 Responds.
Over the next few months, Valdivia noticed more people appearing at her front door.
"This has already happened four times since we’ve been there," she explained.
On one occasion, Valdivia was hiking with her dogs when the smart doorbell app on her phone notified her someone was outside.
"They were peeking through the window; taking pictures of the inside of the house," she said. "I can’t do anything because I am on top of a mountain and I am looking through my doorbell like they are just watching my house."
"I felt really bad for their family," Valdivia added. "It was a couple with a newborn kid and they were just looking for a bigger place and found an ad on Craigslist for really cheap and it just kind of broke my heart that I had to crush their dreams."