- Loki From Thor Comic Book
The week of August 22nd, Loki and some of his fellow Gods/Goddesses of Mischief had a hay day with our lives. The week started out like any other week. Andy had Sunday and Monday off. We just spent the time together. Tuesday Andy went to work. That afternoon, Mark, the former Property Manager for our landlord, arrived at my door with a 3 day vacate notice. It is a legal form that landlords have to utilize prior to going to the courts for an eviction order. 4 months previously, our landlord decided that we owed him $1500 in late fees. When asked for an itemized invoice, he did not provide one. Then that Tuesday we got a request to either vacate the property or pay $3500 in late fees. Since we didn’t have the $3500 nor an itemized invoice, we decided to move. Okay, we could have disputed it in court, except that in order to get a court date we would have to give the court $3500 plus 1.5%. We were planning on moving when our lease was up in October. We just ended up moving 2 months earlier than planned. (And given our habit of procrastination, we would have waited until the last-minute to pack.)
The next day, Wednesday August 25th (for those you are lost), I was searching the lovely Craig’s List for housing options. I actually had started doing this on Tuesday afternoon, and Andy and I drove by a couple of properties that evening. I found the perfect rental! I was so excited. It was a 4 bedroom 2.5 bath house only 15 minutes from Disney, and $150 less per month than what I had been paying for 4 years. After sharing the news and the link with my friend Laura, I sent an email to the contact person and asked if my babies would be allowed and what would move in requirements would be. The next morning (Thursday), I received a response. It was very long and up beat. It was from a man named Netha. He stated in his email that he and his family were missionaries in Africa, and planned on being there for 5 years. He also stated that originally he didn’t plan on renting the house but decided to “spread goodness that God preaches”. Netha also mentioned in the email that the monthly price included all utilities and cable! I was excited! That would save us more money!
- The Dream House (click for slide show of pictures)
I woke up Andy, told him about the email. We decided to go drive by the neighborhood and see the outside of the house. So we drove to the neighborhood. It was a gated neighborhood, next to 2 other gated neighborhoods and an elementary school. Because we didn’t have a code for the gate. We parked the truck at the elementary school and walked over to the neighborhood. We walked to the house. It was an awesome neighborhood. Looking in the windows, the house was just like the pictures in the listing. Andy tried the water spigot to verify that the water was on. After walking around the house, we decided to fill out Netha’s rental application. After filling out the application, I also included on the email that we had walked around the house and thought it was beautiful. Two hours later I received an email from Netha stating that we had been selected to rent the house. The email said that his wife prayed over the 29 applications and “The Spirit chose” us. To say I was excited, was an understatement.
- A Disney Friend Playing In The Uhaul Truck
At his request, I called Netha. We talked for about ten minutes. Andy and I needed to send Netha $1000 for first month and deposit, via Western Union. In return, Netha would overnight FedEx keys and rental documents. Both Andy and I were worried about this arrangement, Andy more than me. But Netha assured me that we were safe. So after Andy’s mom, graciously, deposited money in to our account. I went to the bank, withdrew the money, and went to AmScot. For the first time ever, I did a money wire with Western Union and sent the money to Nigeria. I had been assured by the clerk that the money would not be available for 24 hours. I was confident that if there was a problem, I could cancel the money transfer. After sending the money, I called Netha and passed on the information that he needed. Once again, he assured me that the documents and keys would arrive by 10am the next morning. By the time I got home, 6 members of our Disney Ohana (family) were at the house helping us pack and load a Uhaul truck. They even came with food and beverages! I was in shock. After 4.5 hours and filling the truck about half full, everyone left.
I checked my email to see if there was one from Netha with the tracking number for the keys and document. There wasn’t one. I emailed him to remind him that I needed it. At that same time I had received an email about a property I had emailed about (and drove by) on Tuesday. The contact person, Deborah, stated that she was in Africa on a mission trip. She also stated that I should ignore other listings that might have the property at a higher price. This peaked my interest. I wondered at the odds of having contacted two properties whose owners were in Africa on mission trips. But then I reasoned with my self saying “well, I live in the Bible Belt”. I put in out of my mind and went to bed.
The next morning, Andy got up at around 9am. He was looking at Google News and happened to search “Africa Missionary Rental”. He had pages on pages of results come up stating that it was a scam! I had done a Google search prior to sending the money and came up with nothing. I immediately called Western Union to cancel the money transfer. The agent told me that we could not stop the transfer because the money had been picked up at 530am EDT. To say the least, I was upset. The agent stated that the only thing they could do at that point is have me file a Fraud Report, which I did. But I was out the $1000. They gave me the number for the Internet Fraud Complaint Center. I filed a report with them. Then Andy and I called our mothers to inform them of what happened. With their negative comments repeating themselves in our heads, we both took a moment for a melt down.
- Except I Never Got The T-Shirt
Then Andy sent a text message to some friends. Within minutes, we were sent virtual hugs, and support. At the suggest of a couple of friends we contacted United Way. The very friendly person I talked to, gave me numbers to about 10 different organizations that might be able to help us. I called all of them, a couple were not open on Fridays, and the rest of them were out of funds. While I was doing this, Andy was receiving texts from our extended Disney Ohana offering us places to store our stuff. At around 2pm EDT, on the way to a friend’s house to unload the Uhaul, I received a call from Netha. One thing I did not mention earlier, is that after my meltdown, I emailed him calling him names and informing him that we knew it was a scam and that I had reported him to the appropriate authorities. Anyway, Netha’s called to apologize for not getting us the keys like promised. I informed him that I didn’t want the keys, I just wanted my money back. I also told him that I knew it was a scam. He then hung up on me. I proceeded to call him back and say “Didn’t your mom ever tell that it was rude to hang up on someone?” Netha started repeating that I needed to check my email. After getting to our friend’s house, I checked my email. The following is my favorite part of that email.
“Something bad occur with my wife yesterday on her way to the Fedex office to send the package, so she got an accident and she lost her spinal cord so she was rushed down to the hospital for a treatment,”
By the way, if you “lose your spinal cord”, you die! (Yes I did email him back and informed him of this.)
By 8pm that night, we had unloaded the Uhaul in one person’s garage, secured a short-term boarding location for Andy, I, and our babies, had permission to stay at the duplex until Sunday at Midnight, and offers from friends to come over on Sunday for the final packing and moving of stuff to a second garage.
This whole experience has been a learning experience. One, you never think it can happen to you but when you are desperate it is easy to be scammed, and two, you learn what kind of support system you have. I am very grateful for my Disney Ohana. We would not have been able to get through what happened, and be able to look back on it without too much bitterness or negativity. I have also learned how strong we are and that we will survive this.
To all the people who have been our support.