The Scam Artist

We had been eagerly waiting to get the rental agreement for our new home. Finally, late at night, there was an email in my mailbox and it showed an attachment. When I read the email and opened the contract, I got a bad feeling. The original plan to meet at the house the day we would arrive had now been changed to Please transfer the money, I will send you the keys. He explained he was too busy.

It didn’t seem right, and it wasn’t. When something sounds too good to be true, it mostly is. Too quickly, everything had come together for us. Things just didn’t fall into our laps, we weren’t that lucky. You think we should have known by then.

After I read the email, I slowly and with hesitation typed the address of our new home in the search engine. The house popped up numerous times on different websites, all of them were realtor pages. The place was indeed vacant and on the market, but not to rent but for potential buyers. Why didn’t I do the research earlier?

I called one realtor and left a message, somehow still hoped it all would be just a mistake, but it wasn’t. The name of the listed owner and the name of the soldier who had been writing to us didn’t match. Nothing checked out. I emailed the military station overseas, described our situation. It was already morning there, they answered quickly. There was nobody with the soldier’s name to be found. They apologized, wished us good luck.

One realtor called back as well and explained to me how it was done. Scam artists looked up the houses for sale, then copied the pictures and the address, and approached people like us. Our ad, describing our love for our dogs, as well as explaining our money situation was the perfect discovery for a con man on the search for his next victim.

The soldier, who had been deployed to Iraq so quickly, and who had offered us his house for rent, was, in reality, a conman somewhere in Nigeria or a similar location, who was trying to swindle us out of our last money. The dream of renting our own place, the joy of moving on, had blurred our vision. There had been warning signals which we had overlooked.

Within a few hours, all our dreams were shattered. Our hopes had been laughed at, our feelings had been trampled on by a criminal who takes advantage of people. How low and how evil one must be to go after the ones who are already laying defenseless on the ground.

And why didn’t we see it earlier? Were we that naive?

How does panic feel? It’s indescribable. At the moment I knew for sure that it all had been just a scam, I lost the ground under my feet. I didn’t understand and couldn’t believe anybody would do that to people like us. Just the thought of what could have happened if we would have sent the money gave me the first panic attack of my life -one of many more to come.

At first, I thought I had a heart attack. My heart was racing. I could hear the blood in my ears and I couldn’t breathe. The world started spinning, and I started sweating and shaking. I couldn’t get air into my lungs, couldn’t slow down my breathing. I felt weak and needed to sit down. My hands were on my chest and I remember thinking, “so this is how it feels like.”

It paralyzed me. I didn’t even call for help, I just let the waves crash over me. I have no recollection of how long I had been sitting there, but after a while, it went away.

Anxiety and panic attacks brought on so quickly, with no warnings, would stay with me for a long time. Life had left a mark on my health. My mind was now playing tricks on me, tricks which I could not prevent from happening.

“Grandma, what does heartburn feel like?” I had asked her when I was little and she could not explain it to me. “You’ll see,” she said, and she was right. When I had heartburn for the first time I knew instantly what it was. When I was back on my feet after the first panic attack had struck me hard, I knew what it had been. Was I going crazy?

Dealing with bad news on your own is one thing, but knowing you will have to destroy your partner’s dreams as well is a special form of cruelty I don’t wish on anybody. When I told my husband about the scam, he didn’t say much at first. Just like me, he showed signs of disbelieve, his beautiful eyes got darker, the shine of hope went away.

We were like two flat tires. We didn’t have enough air left to move further but weren’t flat enough to just topple over -we were stuck in between. I had this pit in my stomach. It had formed a few hours earlier and it didn’t go away. It wasn’t really painful, but it was there, constantly reminding me that something was not right.

I believe we all have a breaking point and the scam artist had found mine. The love for my husband and our dogs, my innocence toward life, and my endless optimism -all stomped on. Something broke in me that day. I felt broken.

What would we do? What could we do?

I wanted to share what had happened with my best friend, but hesitated. She had been acting different lately. Her drinking was now terribly out of control, and Kurt’s drinking with her didn’t help her. High from smoking pot, drunk from alcohol, one day they made plans and everything was alright, the next day they couldn’t remember.

One day she was happy for us, the next day she was upset. “If Kurt can’t do it, I will have to close the kitchen down,” she said more than once. When I brought up hiring a butcher again, she didn’t want to hear of it.

I didn’t know what she wanted me to say or do.

When she came home that afternoon, I told her about the scam attempt.

“Kurt doesn’t want you here any longer,” she whispered, and she looked guilty. My husband had once mentioned that he had heard Kurt say that he wanted us gone, which didn’t come as a surprise. I didn’t care about him, but my friend’s reaction surprised me. It was her home, her property, her money. We were her friends.

“We are not staying,” I heard myself say, and to my surprise, I realized I meant it.

“I was just filling you in.” I was amazed by how calm I was.

“You will find another house, you are strong -both of you are. Let me know if I can help.” I knew she meant it. She wanted us to stay, she wanted us gone and she wanted to help us. She was unhappy one moment, happy the next. My friend was a mess and Kurt was not helping the situation -rather the opposite. I could see the torment in her face, in her eyes, in her actions. I felt sorry for her.

In the evening, we excused ourselves after dinner, and we went into the office room.

“Now what?” I looked at my husband like he had all the answers I needed.

We came up with a plan. We still had two weeks to make a miracle happen.

We would look for another home in Indianapolis, and this time we would only accept phone calls, and every house or apartment would be checked out.

At the same time, we would look for my husband’s position in other cities and states as well and put a housing ad up in all of them. When we checked the job ads, we found numerous new postings we hadn’t seen before. Not all were supervisor or manager positions, but they all were in his field. We were not picky.

Encouraged by the new postings, we then decided we would approach companies in the bigger cities, and send them his resume, even if they weren’t hiring at the present time. Keep it on file, just in case!

The next day, our housing ad was posted online in ten different cities.

Together, we decided my husband would take the job in the city, where we would be offered a place to rent, and if we couldn’t find a place, then we would go to Indianapolis as planned, and live in a motel until we would find a home. We would board the dogs in a kennel in the meantime. This, however, fell through quickly. Two of our dogs had recently expired vaccination tags, something we could not afford to fix. When I called around, I learned the kennels would cost more than the motel, which crushed my spirit once again.

Trying to find private fosters for our dogs was an option, but very unlikely. In the end, it would mean we had to surrender our dogs to a shelter.

Back then I thought about the animal shelter situation in this country -and in others. Why, oh why don’t we offer temporary help for pet owners who fall into hardship. Most of them love their animals the way we loved our dogs. Why not adjust the program to the need?

When love isn't enough | HumanePro by The Humane Society of the United  States

We give out food stamps, we help with housing, clothes, and job search, yet there is no help when someone is temporarily not able to take care of a pet. I wish I could change this.

The next morning Kurt didn’t even bother to show up in the morning, he came to the kitchen in the afternoon but left after an hour and went back to the house. He came back one hour before my friend got home and repeated the same the next day.

After dinner, when we cleaned the kitchen, my friend asked us to sit down with her. She didn’t lite her pipe, there was no alcohol on the table, she looked serious and not too happy.

“I will close the kitchen after you leave,” she informed us, but she would continue making sausages for all the existing customers on the weekends. Kurt and her would do the deliveries in the evenings. Kurt didn’t want to work in the kitchen, he had plans of his own, which she respected.

The tax accountant had filed her taxes and verified the amount she would bet back. It was a few dollars less than what I had told her. She brought up her money situation and how hard it would be for her without Kurt’s income. We looked each other straight in the eye. I was so sure she would bring up the money she had promised us, but she didn’t.

“Kurt will find a job,” I assured her, and she nodded. Did we both believe it?

“What about Munchkin?” she asked. Our little dog, a puppy from a litter her dog had given birth to nine years earlier, was snoozing on her lap.

“She will stay with you for a few months, and then, when you come to visit us you can bring her back to us, or we meet halfway.” My husband agreed. At least the little one was safe, we would have to give up our big dogs in a couple of weeks anyway.

We would leave my friend’s home on Good Friday, April 2nd, 2010.

Leaving Behind the Familiar and Overcoming Fear of the Unknown - Dr John G  Kuna and Associates: Psychological Services and Counseling

Life writes the best stories and I happen to have lived a few -not always by choice. Our ‘story’ writes itself and it gives me the joy (and a bit of pain) of reliving some of it. So much seemed clearer now, so much doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

The category “Losing it all” is from start to finish the time in our lives between November 2009 to probably March 2012 or 2013. I will leave a few things out but not much.

Thank you for reading!

19 thoughts on “The Scam Artist

  1. I can’t believe the scam! It seems that the “bad guys” are always out their just hoping to find someone desperate enough to fall for their schemes. What a shock, though! I also agree with you about the need for pet assistance. It seems like this should be an outgrowth even from the ASPCA since pets that are involuntarily given up likely end up without a good end. Lots to think about in this installment, Bridget. It’s not that hard to understand your panic attacks, my friend. It was all too much!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so upset I was right… why are people that mean to others to try to (and too often succeed) take all they have. I am so glad you didn’t lose the money you had gathered for the house. Now my heart is breaking thinking you will have to give up your furbabies… they are such a part of the family. 💔

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad you found out about the scam, but I’m sorry it happened to you… 😔
    And Ow the struggles, especially with your friendand the dogs, so difficult and even heartbreaking… Keeping my fingers and toes crossed that you’ll get a big bucket of luck and you find a place, job and will be able to keep the dogs with you. 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank heavens you weren’t scammed. These people are the lowest of the low. I do believe in karma though. And I agree about helping people take care of their pets during difficult times. As always, I look forward to the next segment.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You must have felt so vulnerable. Very glad you didn’t send the scammer any money, but there was clearly still an emotional impact. You manage to tell the story of some dark times without it getting terribly depressing! Looking forward to reading the next part.

    Liked by 2 people

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