You read about things like this happening to people, but they are other people…people you don’t know. Then one day someone close to you tells you a story and you go, seriously? I just thought that happened to, you know, other people.
Let’s call them Thelma and Louise. They decided to go on a vacation together.
They booked a house in Phoenix for a week. $1500. Not cheap, but being a whole house, with a pool, they figured they were getting more for their money than just a motel room could offer.
This was the first time they were going on a holiday like this together and it would be memorable.
They left the airport in a rental car, and talked on the phone with the owner, getting directions. He would be there to meet them.
Awhile later they called him for more details.
Finally they pulled up to the house they recognized from the photos. They had arrived before the owner.
They waited a reasonable amount of time for him to show up and then reluctantly decided to call him, but there was no answer. A few minutes later they called again. Still no answer.
There must be a reason. Maybe he was on another call. Maybe something had come up.
They called a few more times in the next half hour.
They needed the keys to get into the house. All they could do was wait, parked on the street, in the late afternoon.
The minutes ticked by and they turned on the car for the air conditioning and listened to the radio.
It suddenly dawned on them that they were at the mercy of the person on the phone. If they couldn’t reach him, then they were hooked. Thelma and Louise looked at each other. No way. This couldn’t happen to them.
They called again, more desperate now. It hadn’t been very long since they heard his reassuring voice on the phone. Maybe an hour ago. Surely he would be here any minute now.
But the phone calls had stopped. No more contact. Nothing.
This wasn’t really happening. What would they do if they couldn’t reach him? Sleep parked on the street?
Next door a man was outside doing yard work. They watched him for awhile, as he disappeared and reappeared at the front of the house. Finally, with no results from their persistent phone calls, they decided to go over and talk to him. Maybe he knew the owner. Maybe he could give them some information. He might have another contact number. Maybe an office number, or know of some way they could reach him.
“Hey, we’ve rented the house next door for a week, but we can’t seem to get in touch with the owner,” Louise called out to him.
The man turned to them and looked, strangely, from one to the other and then past them at the house behind them.
“That house is not for rent.”
“What do you mean?” Thelma asked. “We’ve just been on the phone with the owner.”
“I am the owner.”
The two women stared at him. They hadn’t really heard right.
“How can that be?” Louise finally asked.
“I own that house.”
“But we rented it.”
The man’s brows drew together and a shadow crossed his face as he began to walk towards them. “I’m the owner of the house.”
He stood, a short distance from them now, and the space between the three of them became electrically charged as it hit them that something was seriously wrong here.
The women explained how they secured the rental online, through Craigslist, for $1500. They paid to rent it for a week. Since they left the airport they had been on the phone a couple of times with the person whom they believed was the owner, but then he had not showed up and wasn’t answering their calls.
The man listened patiently to their story. After they finished he once again repeated that this was his house, and the house was not for rent.
Indignation washed over the two women, as they realized the truth. They had been scammed.
Maybe the owner was in on this. But he seemed innocent. They told him about the photos on Craigslist, even photos of the inside of the house. How had someone taken photos of the inside of his house?
“It’s been up for sale. If you want I can show you the inside. Maybe it’s not the house you’re looking for.”
“But this is the address we were given. And it matches the photos.” They admitted there were a lot of similar houses in the neighborhood, but the landscaping was the same as the photos.
They became aware that having stumbled across the actual owner was an amazing coincidence. He had the keys to the house so it seemed evident enough that he was indeed the owner. He showed them inside.
When they saw the interior of the house, it was just as it was pictured. They saw the pool in the backyard, just as they remembered it from the ad. In the living room a chair was still positioned, just as the photo on Craigslist had shown.
But the house wasn’t for rent. They knew that now.
Thelma laughed, embarrassed. Louise glowered. Oh, if only they could meet that man on the other end of the phone line.
They finally concluded that someone looked at the house, during the time it was listed, took photos and posted them online and rented out the house. So simple. So devious.
After they left the house, and the owner, they called in a police report. Having given all the information they admitted with resignation that this would make little difference. The scammer had vanished into thin air, with their money.
Finding an available hotel room so late in the day was not easy. They paid an outrageous price for one night, but managed to book another, more reasonable place, for the remainder of their stay once they got settled.
Thelma and Louise don’t really like to tell this story, because who wants to admit to being super scammed out of $1500?