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The Irony of Life, Part 7: Internet Fraud

My search for a home during the COVID-19 Pandemic with the Governor’s Stay- Home Order has been difficult.  Realtors and owners want you to rent houses sight unseen.  If you’re lucky enough to find someone who will actually show you a place, they say, “I’ll open the door for you and stay outside while you look.”  Even so, I found the perfect house online.  But it ended as a nightmare.

I remembered seeing a Zillow ad for a house to rent in Bayfield, near Durango.  But looking online to see it again, it had changed to “for sale.”  I called a realtor for the owner’s contact information; he said he’d give her mine.

On 4/11, I saw this email from the owner that had been sent the night before:

Thanks for showing interest, the property is available for rent and move-in ASAP,  I’m the owner of the property located: 164 S Los Pinos Dr, Bayfield, CO 81122. I wanted to sell it out but due to some factor about the realtor I was working with before I decided not to sell it again, the agents are not truthful about handling things and I’m looking to handle things myself now the best way I can. I’m looking for someone that will take care of the property as if it was their own, someone that will be very neat, take good care of the property for me and  make payment of rent with no delay.  Pets are allowed as long as they are not destructive. The rent is $900; the security deposit is $500 .The house is ready for move-in. Utilities are included in the Rent (excluding Trash) AND LEASE IS 6 MONTHS TO A YEAR WITH OPTION OF LEASE TO OWN. The house is for rent now but would be really interested in a lease to own in the future. Here is the Address :164 S Los Pinos Dr, Bayfield, CO. Thank you

 

I replied by introducing myself.

On 4/11, 8:37 a.m., the owner replied:

I’m Cari J Westwood and I’m in Maryland at the moment having moved from CO due to the nature of my job. I have moved my family here too. You can drive by the house anytime of the day if you wish to see the house for yourself. But you have to look through the windows.  If you like it, get back to me so we can proceed with the Lease.
Like I explained to you before, I’m no more dealing with the realtor.  The for-sale sign is still there. Deal with me directly. You would have to fill out an application, because I still have to run a background check on you before I can agree to lease it out to you. I can also send pictures for you to have more views of the property.  Get back to me if you will like to proceed with this

 

I replied, “I want to proceed; I am leaving now to see the house”.” When I returned I sent this email:

April 11, 8:01 AM I replied:

I did not see a washer/dryer in the photos you sent.  Are there hook-ups?  Yes, please send me an application by email and I will fill it out and return it by email today. Can we talk?

4/11/2020 8:12 AM, The owner wrote:

There is no washer or dryer there for now.  I will be sending the application to you via email for you to fill and send back so that I can run a background check and if everything seems right then we can proceed with the rental application form attached with this email

I filled out the application and returned it by email. I said I was going to look at the place and asked if she could answer my questions re’ washer/dryer, floor space, etc.  Before I left, I got this email from the owner:

Congratulations on your application! I have completed the background check, I ran checks on it to see if you have any unnecessary ticket on it and it came out fine.   I must confess everything came out very clean and I’m ready to proceed with you now that we got the result of the Rental Application. So I have agreed to lease the property to you.  I have told my attorney to prepare the lease and I will be going to his office to sign the lease. but I need to know your intended move-in date, name you want to have on the lease, how many months/years lease you would love to sign, and The address you want me to mail the keys to. Get back to me asap because of my appointment at my attorney’s office. Thanks once again.

I replied: “I’m leaving as soon as my car warms up.  While I’m gone, could you send me the measurements of floor space in bedrooms? And answer my other questions, e.g., “are their hook-ups for a washer and dryer?”

On 4/11/2020 10:18 AM, the owner wrote:

I will be waiting to hear from you after you drive by the house. Thanks

When I returned, I replied:  “I am very interested in this house.  I want to go inside before I sign a lease.  Who has a key?

She replied:

I told you that I’m in Maryland for now and I have the keys here with me.

On Sun, Apr 12, 2020 at 12:16 AM, I sent another email:

I’m still waiting for you to answer my questions and verify that you are the owner.  You’ve checked me out. Now it’s my turn. I need to see the house before I sign a lease.

I called realtors until I found out who listed the house and left messages to call me.  She did, and told me it was a scam; the owner is here in Durango; she is not in Maryland.

I spent the rest of the afternoon filing a police report and an ICC claim for internet fraud because now leases include your social security number and other personal data.

[To be continued…]

Till next time,

“Please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows.” ~Tzaddi

4 responses to “The Irony of Life, Part 7: Internet Fraud

  1. Wow, you handled that one beautifully-and dodged a huge bullet! That was really interesting…she had me fooled up until you stepped on her scam. What a lesson for us all. Thank you!
    Love you, joey

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  2. Thank you, Joey. This has been an amazing journey. I’ve learned a lot, especially about using the Internet to find a home and how applications to rent have changed. A man in California, the father of a woman in Bayfield Colorado whose house I got to see last week, sent by email an application to rent her house. It was just like the scammer’s in that it required the applicant’s social security number, bank account numbers, and balances for each account. I so appreciate your support! Thank you!

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  3. That’s nuts, Pam. So sorry that happened to you. I kept thinking… not adding up, not adding up, but couldn’t figure out why someone wouldn’t answer some basic questions. Dodged a bullet indeed.
    Here’s hoping that you’ll soon find a nice place to stay.

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  4. Thank you, Mimi. I’ve been working ten-twelve hours/day for so long I’m in a groove now–just packing, concerned about my cats, and trying to get out of here ASAP. We’ll catch up “down the road” when I’m settled in my rented house in another state. I hope everything is cool in Australia. Be well. Love you!

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