'Exercise a little more caution': FBI warns Mainers of a spike in real estate scams

'Exercise a little more caution': FBI warns Mainers of a spike in real estate scams

Roger Pettingell Sarasota Real Estate

In 2021, 42 Mainers lost nearly half a million dollars through real estate and rental scams.

MAINE, USA — As the cost of rent and homes continues to rise, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston Division is warning the public about a spike in rental and real estate scams.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), there has been a steady increase in losses reported by victims of these types of scams in the last three years.

Across New England, in 2021, 415 victims reported $13,424,269 in losses because of these scams, which is a 27% jump from the previous year, the FBI Boston Division reported. 

  • 42 victims in Maine lost $489,309
  • 290 victims in Massachusetts lost $8,944,041
  • 41 victims in New Hampshire lost $2,576,210
  • 42 victims in Rhode Island lost $1,414,709

“I certainly think this is a crime of opportunity,” FBI Boston Division Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matthew Giacobbi said. “[Now] is a time when folks like to enjoy summer, take vacations, and potentially look at real estate property and rental property, and with the hot real estate market right now, we wanted to raise awareness to have folks be wary of potential scams.”

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The FBI has some tips on how to avoid being victimized:

  • Do not wire funds to people you do not know.
  • Do not put money towards a house or apartment you have not seen.
  • Confirm the identity of the landlord by researching public records to find out who owns the property you are seeking to rent or purchase.
  • Do not fill out applications online until you have met directly with the property manager.
  • Know local rental prices.
  • Look for online reviews, references, and testimonials from past inhabitants.
  • Be wary if a potential tenant wants to rent property sight unseen.
  • Be wary if a potential renter says they are out of town and will send you a cashier’s check.
  • Be wary if a potential landlord says he is out of the country and wants the rent sent to a foreign account.
  • Do not accept overpayment for properties. If you receive a check for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it.

Giacobbi told NEWS CENTER Maine many people are hesitant to report they were scammed. He added the FBI does want to hear from victims. You can file a complaint by going to IC3.gov or calling 1-800-CALL-FBI. 

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