BAR HARBOR — As the seasonal housing crunch continues, one downtown homeowner found herself the object of a scam on the website Craigslist.
Kathleen Field was away on vacation when she got a Facebook message from an acquaintance saying a house she owns, which she has listed for sale with Lynam Real Estate, was advertised on Craigslist for rent at $800 per month.
The creator of the scam post evidently stole the photos and descriptions of the house from Lynam’s website, broker Suzanne Sylvia said. A fake story about how the owners were going to be out of the country was added.
When interested people contacted the phone number or email listed on the scam post, they received a long email and questionnaire from a “Rev. Martinez Jose and Family.”
“We will be away for Four years or more that is why We have made up Our mind to put Our house up for rent to whomever that will take good care of it (sic),” the email says. It claims the family has just begun a period of mission work in Nigeria.
Applicants are asked to agree to pay a deposit before receiving the keys.
“It was obvious to me the moment I started reading it,” Field said. “The deposit would be long gone when (a prospective renter) found out it was fraudulent.”
“This time of year, people are desperate for apartments,” Sylvia said. “People were calling us to ask about it. I was actually showing the property when a person came up wanting to rent it.”
“Our initial plan was to sell the house,” the email claims, telling prospective renters to ignore the real estate lawn sign. “We have stop dealing and contacting the Realtor for too much fees.”
Kim Kanter, the office manager at Lynam’s, emailed Craigslist to let them know the post was bogus, Sylvia said.
They also contacted the Bar Harbor Police Department, who suggested they flag or report the post.
“There’s not much we can do unless money has changed hands,” Lt. David Kerns said. “But we can help walk people through what they can do.”
The fraudulent Craigslist post has been taken down now, Field said, but “people should be aware of what’s happening.”
She recommends searching your own address on the internet regularly to make sure nothing incorrect is out there.
“The next step is a weekly rental scam, where a family on vacation shows up expecting to stay at your house, already having paid,” she said. “I don’t want that to happen to anyone.”