Sheriff's Office warns of scam targeting would-be renters
Warren — The Knox County Sheriff's Office is warning the public of an online scam moving through the area that targets people looking for a place to rent.
The scam, originating from the online site Craigslist, is targeting homes that are listed for sale. Knox County Patrol Supervisor Pat Polky said the people behind this are taking online open-source photographs and using them as their own and listing the houses as rentals.
Beth Gindel, an agent at The New England Real Estate Co. in Camden, said she received a call Aug. 29 from the mother of someone who was attempting to rent a property Gindel has listed for sale on Conary Lane in Warren. After the woman's daughter began asking questions of the potential landlord, she realized it was a scam and ceased communication.
The Sheriff's Office said in this particular scam, the listed owner of the property wants respondents to send a money transfer through Western Union. The listed number involved in this scam is a Maryland-based number, (443) 219-7495, and a "Wayne Berry" is the contact. Gindel said when she did an online search of the name and phone number, she came across a discussion of this very thing also happening in New York state.
When the would-be renter contacted "Berry," Gindel said she was told that he worked for the United Nations Development Program in Edinburgh, Scotland, and just got a three- to six-year transfer that is bringing him to Green River, Wyo., and he was looking for someone to rent his house in Warren. When the woman asked why the house was listed for sale, Gindel said she was told by the man that he had problems with the agent and ultimately fired her and decided to just rent the house instead.
Gindel said the ad on Craiglist, which has now been flagged and removed, had the picture she had taken of the house and used in her real estate listing and also used the exact property description that she had written. The real estate agent said she has had this happen in the past, but has never heard from the public about it. One other time she got a call from the neighbor of a Belfast home Gindel had listed for sale, who had seen people walking around the property. When the neighbor asked what they were doing, the people said they had seen it listed on Craigslist as a rental.
Polky said in the last month the Sheriff's Office has also received complaints of similar situations in Washington and Appleton. So far, no one has fallen for the scheme, because most people expect to be able to tour a rental property before they make a commitment, he said.
The deputy said this type of scheme is similar to the Jamaican lottery scam where scammers lead victims to believe they have won a drawing or lottery, but the cash or prizes will not be released without upfront payment of fees or taxes.
If anyone is asking for money upfront, it is a probably a scam, Polky said.
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