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May 1—LEWISTON — The Craigslist ad was for a acquaintance to allotment a home in Lewiston, acceptable to downtown. It was $800 a month, month-to-month was OK, pets OK, added a $500 deposit. The pictures looked promising.

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I inquired. I accustomed an email aback allurement me to ample out a rental application. It asked for a Social Security number, which should accept been a aflame red flag.

Warning Signs

Tips for alienated rental scams on Craigslist and FB Marketplace:

* Use of words like “urgent” or “immediate” in the narrative.

* Listed prices that do not bout bounded bazaar prices.

* The “landlord” or “property manager” asks you to wire money for a deposit, and is ambitious about it.

* They ask for your claimed banking advice or Social Security number.

* The poster’s FB annual looks new, with little to no content.

* Photos attending professional, but are limited. (Most are taken from absolute acreage firms or accepted rental websites and pasted into the ad.)

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In my case, it was artlessly a Craigslist encoded email I responded to, not a Nigerian or South American email address. I was beneath than 10 canicule out from starting my new job in Lewiston, and award a concise rental was proving to be added difficult and added big-ticket than I accept anytime accomplished in added than a dozen moves in my developed life.

After appointment the application, addition email asked me to wire a $200 appliance fee, which would go adjoin the $500 deposit. Red banderole No. 2. I acquainted afraid yet pressured to cull the activate and ensure I had a abode to alive while I searched for a home to buy.

The “landlord” acclimated the name Kathy Castillo. Next, they capital the $200 delivered through Cash App. Red banderole No. 3. This web acquittal app alone allows debit cards, not acclaim cards, which makes it about absurd to get a acquittance from your coffer or acclaim union. It is additionally not accepted by the Bigger Business Agency and bags of complaints accept been registered adjoin Cash App for countless reasons.

Story continues

I beatific it anyhow out of absolute desperation. I anon acquainted commodity was actual wrong. I should accept followed my instincts. After that day addition email and argument came allurement for the butt of the drop and the aboriginal month’s rent, for a absolute of an added $1,100. Alarm accretion went off in my head. Finally, I got the message.

I replied I bare a few canicule to accumulate the funds, as I had aloof paid my hire in Tennessee. That was a Thursday. I agreed to accelerate the antithesis Tuesday. I started analytic for Kathy Castillo in Maine. Two matches, none in Lewiston. I Googled the abode of the abode listed in the Craigslist ad and begin a absolute acreage advertisement from May 2021, assuming the abode had sold. I looked at the pictures and they were the exact aforementioned ones in the Craigslist ad.

Upon afterpiece inspection, there was a watermark on the images from the bounded absolute acreage firm. I searched the Androscoggin Canton Registry of Accomplishments website for the “rental” house’s address. Bingo! But the owner’s name was not listed as Kathy Castillo.

I alleged the absolute acreage close listed on Zillow and got lucky. The abettor I batten with would acquaintance the abettor who awash the abode and get aback to me. Within 30 account I got the news. The buyer had not put an ad on Craigslist and was not attractive for a roommate. Neighbors had afresh told the buyer they had spotted her abode on Craigslist and warned her. My affection skipped a beat.

I after begin out the buyer had flagged the ad on Craigslist, advertence it was suspicious, alone for it to arise and reappear a abbreviate time later.

Imagine if I had apparent up at the abode the afterward Monday with my U-Haul in tow and agape on the door? The buyer would accept had every appropriate to alarm the badge or pepper aerosol me, and I still would charge a abode to stay. I alleged my coffer to try to get my money back, commodity I now apperceive will not happen.

Tuesday formed about and I was afraid it. I knew the bluff would be contacting me for added money. How would I handle it? What would I say? By 11 a.m. I got a text, a accidental greeting and how are you today? “Just bulletin me back you accelerate the money to Cash App. I accept to go into some meetings.”

My acknowledgment was to the point: “The jig is up. I apperceive this is a scam. You don’t own the acreage and I’ve appear you to the police, the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission. You bigger accomplish yourself scarce.”

I’m abiding they got a acceptable laugh. They artlessly replied, “How do you mean?”

I may never see my $200, but I didn’t get bamboozled added into the scam. I appointed a allowance at the bounded extended-stay hotel, breadth I knew I would be safe and had a affirmed reservation.

This is alone one of the rental scams out there, but they all run a agnate pattern. The key is to admit the red flags and assure yourself to abstain what happened to me or alike worse.

Brenda Fontaine, architect of the The Fontaine Ancestors Group absolute acreage close in Auburn, and her babe Crystal Fontaine Bergeron attention there are added scams they see in the area.

“Foreclosures are addition botheration (for abeyant renters),” Brenda Fontaine said, apropos to abandoned houses activity through the foreclosure action because the antecedent buyer didn’t accumulate up the mortgage payments. “The antecedent buyer collects the money and doesn’t pay the mortgage.” The bedfellow is larboard captivation the bag back the coffer or some added official comes animadversion at the door.

Rent-to-own homes are addition articulation of the absolute acreage business thieves target. They too are frequently angry to home foreclosures. The Fontaines acquaint ambitious renters to analysis the online database for accomplishments by the abode in the burghal or canton breadth you appetite to rent. That chase will account the buyer and date of the sale. You should additionally chase accessible annal for foreclosures. The Fontaines advance you alarm the burghal or canton if you charge advice analysis documents. The agents is actual helpful.

NOT JUST CRAIGSLIST

Craigslist is singled out by the Maine Attorney General’s Office as one of websites breadth rental scams are commonplace. But beware of Facebook Marketplace as well. Three contempo examples from Texas and Kentucky were acicular out to me by a absolute acreage agent. See the examples below. In anniversary case, the affiche uses the aforementioned name, which we blued out in the photos accompanying this story, and alike has a Facebook page, which has little to no advice or acquaintance advice listed. No addresses are listed for any of the three properties.

One from Texas reads: “1800 sq, ft., 3 bed, 2 ablution adapted abode for $700 a month, no bottomward acquittal needed, bad acclaim no problem!” The average hire for a three-bedroom abode in Abilene ranges from $1,200 to $1,800, according to zumper.com, so the $700 hire should be a red flag.

And the accent acclimated in two of the ads is decidedly similar: “My Aunt is actively attractive for a family…” and “My Mom is actively attractive for a family…”

The Sun Journal could not affirm the ads are scams, but they accept abounding of the red flags customer advocates acquaint about. The point is, if it looks too acceptable to be true, it acceptable is. Do your analysis and ask questions if admonishing accretion go off.

Cash App’s ancestor company, Block, aforetime Square, is actuality advised by the Customer Banking Protection Agency and several accompaniment attorneys general, apropos its Cash App service, according to an commodity acquaint by Bloomberg on March 4.

The agency has requested advice from Block, including capacity on Cash App’s administration of “customer complaints and disputes,” according to the report. Block has said it is allied with all the parties, and the aggregation added that it’s “not accessible to anxiously actuate the abeyant liability” back it comes to the investigation.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, complaints adjoin Cash App were up 472% in a year, accretion from 735 complaints in 2019 to 4,204 in 2020.

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