BANGOR, Maine — The Internet scam is nothing new — a home for rent is listed on Craigslist or another website. Send the money now through Western Union and the keys will be sent later.
Those who fall for the scam send the money and never see the keys.
Bob Quinn, owner of the Quinn Agency, said Monday that he has seen the scam several times in recent years, and when his real estate agency began to get calls last week about renting two homes it is listing for sale, he knew scammers were involved.
He quickly notified the Internet providers to shut down the fraudulent ads.
“I’ve e-mailed them and said it was a bogus ad and should be removed,” Quinn said. “This is the first one I’ve run into in Bangor. I’ve had a couple in Hampden.”
The rental ads were found on Craigslist and Adsinusa.com, and both had been removed as of Monday, he said.
“We’ve had at least seven calls to lease it,” Quinn said. “One or two people interrupted the showing [of the Bangor house] asking if it was for rent.”
Quinn and his staff decided to respond to the Craigslist posting and were sent a rental application and details about how to send the money through Western Union. He then called police.
The Bangor Police Department sent out a press release early Monday warning residents to be wary of Internet rental ads.
In the most recent scam, “the listing indicated that the owners were working at a Mission in West Africa and needed to rent their home,” Sgt. Paul Edwards, a police spokesman, said in the statement. “Once e-mail contact was made by potential renters, the ‘owners’ requested that rent be sent to them and they would in turn send the keys to the property.”
Edwards added: “This is not an uncommon scam.”
In fact, Craigslist has posted the following common-sense rules concerning scammers:
ä “Deal locally with folks you can meet in person — follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts on craigslist.”
ä “Never wire funds via Western Union, Moneygram or any other wire service — anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.”
The Internet ads look real, so people really have to be wary, Edwards said.
“The fear is that people will actually send money to the scammers,” he said. “Once someone sends money based on a fraud, the money will not likely be recovered, and many of these types of scams are difficult, if not impossible to locate.”
To avoid becoming a victim of a rental scam, Edwards said “people should not send money to someone unless they know them to be reliable [and] should not attempt to rent a property that they have not seen.”
In addition, he said, if a real estate agent’s sign is located on the property, they should contact the agent for information.