December 10, 2023


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Rental fraud: How I got scammed on Craigslist while trying to move to Lewiston


LEWISTON — The Craigslist advertisement was for a roommate to share a residence in Lewiston, hassle-free to downtown. It was $800 a thirty day period, month-to-month was Ok, pets Ok, as well as a $500 deposit. The pictures appeared promising.

I inquired. I gained an e-mail back again inquiring me to fill out a rental software. It questioned for a Social Safety range, which should really have been a flashing purple flag. 

In my scenario, it was only a Craigslist encoded electronic mail I responded to, not a Nigerian or South American e-mail handle. I was considerably less than 10 days out from starting off my new job in Lewiston, and discovering a brief-expression rental was proving to be a lot more hard and much more costly than I have at any time professional in extra than a dozen moves in my adult everyday living. 

Soon after publishing the application, another e-mail requested me to wire a $200 application cost, which would go toward the $500 deposit. Pink flag No. 2. I felt uneasy yet pressured to pull the cause and ensure I experienced a position to stay whilst I searched for a house to purchase. 

The “landlord” made use of the identify Kathy Castillo. Next, they desired the $200 delivered by way of Funds Application. Crimson flag No. 3. This web payment application only allows debit cards, not credit rating cards, which would make it almost extremely hard to get a refund from your bank or credit union. It is also not accredited by the Superior Small business Bureau and 1000’s of issues have been registered in opposition to Hard cash App for myriad causes.  

I despatched it anyway out of utter desperation. I instantly felt a little something was extremely wrong. I really should have followed my instincts. Later on that day an additional electronic mail and textual content came asking for the remainder of the deposit and the initially month’s rent, for a complete of an further $1,100. Alarm bells went off in my head. Eventually, I bought the information. 

I replied I required a handful of days to obtain the resources, as I experienced just paid out my hire in Tennessee. That was a Thursday. I agreed to send out the harmony Tuesday. I begun browsing for Kathy Castillo in Maine. Two matches, none in Lewiston. I Googled the tackle of the house detailed in the Craigslist advertisement and identified a true estate listing from May possibly 2021, displaying the house had bought. I appeared at the pictures and they have been the specific same types in the Craigslist ad.


Upon nearer inspection, there was a watermark on the visuals from the local serious estate agency. I searched the Androscoggin County Registry of Deeds web-site for the “rental” house’s tackle. Bingo! But the owner’s name was not shown as Kathy Castillo.  

I named the authentic estate business listed on Zillow and bought fortunate. The agent I spoke with would get hold of the agent who bought the residence and get again to me. Within just 30 minutes I bought the information. The owner experienced not place an ad on Craigslist and was not looking for a roommate. Neighbors experienced lately told the owner they had noticed her household on Craigslist and warned her. My coronary heart skipped a beat. 

I later identified out the proprietor had flagged the advert on Craigslist, indicating it was suspicious, only for it to seem and reappear a small time afterwards. 

Consider if I experienced revealed up at the handle the subsequent Monday with my U-Haul in tow and knocked on the door? The proprietor would have had just about every correct to simply call the law enforcement or pepper spray me, and I even now would require a position to continue to be. I termed my financial institution to try to get my cash back, a thing I now know will not happen. 

Tuesday rolled about and I was dreading it. I realized the scammer would be contacting me for a lot more cash. How would I take care of it? What would I say? By 11 a.m. I obtained a textual content, a everyday greeting and how are you currently? “Just concept me when you ship the income to Dollars App. I have to go into some conferences.”   

My reply was to the level: “The jig is up. I know this is a scam. You never have the home and I’ve claimed you to the law enforcement, the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission. You greater make by yourself scarce.”


I’m sure they bought a great snicker. They only replied, “How do you signify?” 

I might in no way see my $200, but I did not get duped even further into the fraud. I booked a place at the regional extended-stay hotel, in which I knew I would be safe and sound and had a assured reservation. 

This is only one of the rental frauds out there, but they all operate a similar pattern. The important is to realize the pink flags and safeguard oneself to avoid what took place to me or even worse. 

Brenda Fontaine, founder of the The Fontaine Relatives Group serious estate agency in Auburn, and her daughter Crystal Fontaine Bergeron caution there are other cons they see in the place.

“Foreclosures are a further dilemma (for prospective renters),” Brenda Fontaine said, referring to vacant properties likely via the foreclosures course of action since the prior operator did not continue to keep up the home loan payments. “The preceding owner collects the income and doesn’t pay the mortgage loan.” The renter is left holding the bag when the lender or some other formal arrives knocking at the doorway.

Hire-to-individual houses are a different phase of the true estate small business robbers concentrate on. They also are regularly tied to property foreclosures. The Fontaines alert would-be renters to verify the online database for deeds by the deal with in the town or county the place you want to rent. That search will listing the proprietor and date of the sale. You need to also look for public documents for foreclosures. The Fontaines recommend you phone the city or county if you need support locating files. The staff members is quite handy.



Craigslist is singled out by the Maine Legal professional General’s Business office as one particular of internet sites where rental frauds are commonplace. But beware of Fb Marketplace as effectively. 3 latest illustrations from Texas and Kentucky had been pointed out to me by a genuine estate agent. In each situation, the poster works by using the similar name, which we blued out in the shots accompanying this tale, and even has a Facebook webpage, which has minor to no information or speak to information listed. No addresses are outlined for any of the 3 advertisements.

One from Texas reads: “1800 sq, ft., 3 bed, 2 bath renovated property for $700 a month, no down payment required, terrible credit rating no issue!” The median hire for a a few-bedroom house in Abilene ranges from $1,200 to $1,800, according to, so the $700 lease really should be a crimson flag.

And the language utilised in two of the adverts is shockingly equivalent: “My Aunt is urgently wanting for a family…” and “My Mom is urgently searching for a family…”

The Solar Journal could not ensure the ads are ripoffs, but they have many of the red flags client advocates warn about. The place is, if it seems to be far too very good to be genuine, it probable is. Do your investigation and talk to concerns if warning bells go off.  

Cash App’s guardian organization, Block, formerly Sq., is remaining investigated by the Client Monetary Defense Bureau and various condition lawyers basic, relating to its Hard cash Application support, in accordance to an posting posted by Bloomberg on March 4. 


The bureau has requested data from Block, such as details on Money App’s handling of “customer grievances and disputes,” according to the report. Block has explained it is cooperating with all the functions, and the enterprise extra that it is “not achievable to reliably ascertain the possible liability” when it comes to the investigation. 

In accordance to the Federal Trade Commission, grievances in opposition to Hard cash Application had been up 472% in a year, raising from 735 grievances in 2019 to 4,204 in 2020. 

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