Many Massachusetts residents planning to vacation in Maine have recently fallen prey to a craigslist rental scam, Seacoastonline.com reports. The scam involves craigslist listings for fake York Beach homes.
The bogus listings require the renters to pay a deposit in order to reserve the rental properties. When the renters show up at the rental units, however, they find that the units are either already occupied or aren’t available to rent at all.
Local police began receiving reports of the craigslist scam last summer, when several people reported paying between $375 and $2,000 to rent York Beach rental units that weren't available. Since the victims wired the money, authorities have been unable to recover the cash or identify any suspects. Wired money can be easily transferred through different offices, and even out of the country.
Last August, a couple from Merrimac, Mass. arrived at a condo on Long Beach Avenue, only to find that people were already staying in the unit. The couple had paid a $300 deposit after they found the unit on craigslist. It turned out that the pictures in the craigslist ad of the unit'' interior were from an entirely different home.
Last week, a Massachusetts woman notified police after she found a craigslist ad for a rental on Ridge Road for a price that seemed too good to be true. After speaking with a local real estate agency, she found out that the property was actually up for sale. The agency said that the woman was the sixth or seventh person to inquire about renting the unit even though it wasn't available to rent.
Under Massachusetts' criminal code, a person who, with the intent to defraud and by a false pretense, induces another to part with property of any kind or with any benefits is guilty of larceny. If the property stolen exceeds $250 in value, the crime is punishable by up to 5 years in state prison, or by a maximum fine of $25,000 and up to 2 years in state prison.
Since the perpetrators of the craigslist rental scam have netted anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, they could be facing several years in prison if caught and convicted.