Looking for a place to rent has become a total nightmare for me. When did it become so hard to find a place to live?

It hasn't always been that way, it's only been this difficult since I moved to Rockford. I've been looking for a rental home for the last year and a half now and still haven't had any luck.

Can you relate? Either the house you really love doesn't have enough garage space, the rent is too high, it's in a dangerous neighborhood or, if you've ever tried using Craigslist, it's a total scam.

I'm not sure how he pulled it off, but according to DNA Info, there's a landlord in Illinois, if he really even is one, who's scamming potential renters out of deposit money without giving them a set of keys in return.

The man, who goes by Byron Dean and Joseph Grant, has posted fake ads for apartments, collects the first and last months rent, and/or the security deposit on non-existent rental properties; and the renters are left without any means to get their money back.

Police are advising anyone who may be responding to online rental ads to be on the look out for the scammer, who's been described as black man between the ages of 35 and 37, is about 5-foot-10, weighs roughly 200 pounds with black hair and a medium complexion.

Rental experts advise that the best way to avoid this type of scam is to make sure you see the apartment before you give the landlord any money; if the listing asks for cash up front, walk away.

Here are some other tips from Trulia:

1. Stay away from fake real estate agent services. You should never have to pay a fee to have someone find a cheaper rental property for you.

2. Watch for copy and pasted ads. A scammer will use a similar ad from a legitimate source but inflate the cost of rent and/or security deposit.

3. The "MIA" landlord. This is a very common scam in Rockford. The landlord or owner of the property will tell you that they're out of town or incapacitated for whatever reason and will ask you for first and last months rent, plus deposit. Don't do it.

4. Withholding your deposit. It means more than your landlord just being a tool; it's considered a scam. Landlords can get weird when it comes time for you to move out. They might tell you that your deposit is in the mail, but it never arrives; even if you left the place in better shape than it was when you moved in. Take pictures of everything when you move out and don't be afraid to do the leg work to get your money, even if it means taking your former landlord to small claims court.

Catch Mandy James on “The Steve Shannon Show with Mandy James” on 97 ZOK from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Follow her on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.