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Couple warns rental scam has resurfaced in Central Maine with new twist

A Lewiston couple is warning the public after nearly falling victim to a well-known rental scam that's resurfaced in Central Maine with a new twist.

WATERVILLE (WGME) -- A Lewiston couple is warning the public after nearly falling victim to a well-known rental scam that's resurfaced in Central Maine with a new twist.

Ricky and Janice, who didn't want their last names publicized, said they saw a Waterville home listed for rent on Craigslist and immediately fell in love with it. They thought it seemed too good to be true, and it turns out, it was.

"I wanted this place," said Ricky. "You have no idea how bad I wanted it."

Ricky said they found the ad on Friday. The Prospect street home was $600 per month, with utilities included.

"It said colonial home, nice hardwood floors, spacious," Ricky said.

He said he responded to the ad by e-mail and heard back from a man identifying himself as the homeowner. CBS 13 discovered it's the same name as the owner listed in city assessor's records.

"It actually did use his name, so I thought I was talking to the right person," said Ricky. "I thought it was all legit."

The owner would only communicate by e-mail and asked the couple to put down $1200 up front.

"He wanted it wired Walmart to Walmart," said Ricky.

Ricky was prepared to send the cash until he stopped by the house and saw a real estate sign. He said he called the agent, who told him it was all a scam. The house is for sale, not for rent.

"That would have broke us. It would have hurt us bad," Ricky said.

Don Plourde said this is the third time one of his company's listings has been targeted in as many months.

"We're getting more of them lately and it just seems to be an issue," said Plourde.

Plourde said the photos sent to Ricky were taken straight from his website.

He said his employees always alert Craigslist and police. Unfortunately, the only other thing they can do is warn of red flags, like a lower than market rent, real estate sign and request to wire money.

Plourde encourages everyone to call the real estate company directly.

"Please call," he said. "And that way you'll know for sure."

Ricky and Janice are thankful they didn't lose any money and hope it doesn't happen to anyone else.

"We'll keep looking. We will find a place," said Ricky. "We're not gonna give up."

Plourde also said vacant homes are most often targeted in these types of schemes, so one step owners can take is to photograph the inside while the furniture is still there.

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