Fraud & Scam Alerts

Avoid Becoming A Victim of Frauds and Scams

The Wells Police Criminal Investigation Division monitors trends in local and regional fraud and scam activity. The following information is designed to help you recognize and avoid becoming a victim of fraud and scams in our area.

Most Popular Scams

There are several methods of pulling off rental scams on Craigslist, but these 2 seem to be the most popular and both have occurred in Wells:

  • Renting As Or On Behalf Of The Owner: The scam artist locates a house for sale and lists it on Craigslist for rent. They arrange a meeting with prospective renters and claim to be the owner or claim to be helping someone else rent the property. The real owner may have already moved elsewhere, may be a bank in the case of a foreclosure, or the home may be a seasonal or vacation home where the owners are unlikely to be around. Once the scammer collects deposits and fees, they skip town. The renter then discovers the home wasn't for rent. The scammer will often disguise their real identity, making them difficult to track down.
  • Nigerian Rental Scams: This scam takes place on the internet and the scammer doesn't need to be present and may never have been to the property. One flavor of this scam that targets renters involves a scammer finding a photo of a property and its address then posting them on Craigslist, eBay, or other online rental websites hoping someone will be willing to wire them the first and last month's rent, security deposits, and assorted fees. Once the money is wired, the theft has occurred.

A variation of this scam targets landlords. Someone will answer an online posting for a property and ask to pay by Western Union or an equivalent money wiring service. If the landlord takes the bait, the renter will "accidentally" pay too much. The renter will apologize and ask for the extra funds to be sent back to them. If the landlord doesn't wait for the payment to clear the bank and sends the money, they're out whatever they send.

Tips to avoid Rent Fraud

  • Positively identify who you are negotiating with and who is the owner of the property.
  • The identity of a property owner is public information and can be obtained at your local town office or county courthouse, be sure to check this out.
  • Deal only with local buyers and sellers.
  • A landlord will ask you to sign a contract and will perform a credit check. Not doing so is a red flag.
  • Never wire transfer money to someone you do not know.
  • Consider renting through a reputable rental or real estate agent.
  • Trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Historical Scam Reports

Phishing Scams

We have received several reports that Kennebunk Savings Bank and Ocean Communities Federal Credit Union customers are being targeted in a phishing scam. The caller will erroneously report that a security breach has occurred and that the victim's account information needs to be verified. The information obtained by the scammer can be used to access the victim's bank account. The banks involved have confirmed that there has been no security breach.

Door-To-Door Scams

The Wells Police Department is aware of several individuals going door-to-door offering to trim trees who are not licensed, insured, or registered to do business in the Town of Wells. They are targeting elderly people who are unable to do the work themselves. Often, the final bill is much more that initially agreed upon and the quality of the work is poor.

Do Your Research

Do your homework prior to hiring contractors. Ask for references, verify that they are licensed and insured, and obtain a written contract that describes the work to be completed and the cost for that work.