The holiday season is a time for celebration, for giving, and for family. You don’t normally associate it with scams or fraud. But for a young mother and daughter, this holiday season started out with exactly that.
Jenny Marroquin, a 2017 graduate of Somerville High School in Massachusetts and the mother of a special needs daughter, was preparing to move into an apartment after an 11-month stay at a homeless shelter. Marroquin and her daughter, who is deaf, were excited to begin this new chapter in their lives.
Marroquin had found the apartment through a listing on Apartments.com, and from all the descriptions and pictures, it was exactly what she was looking for. It was move-in ready, and the price was within her budget as a single mother.
But if it sounds to good to be true, it often is—as Marroquin soon found out. She gathered her savings and some borrowed money to complete the transaction and lease the apartment. She followed the directions of the contact person and put the money on a prepaid Visa card.
She put a total of $1600 dollars for security deposit and first month’s rent on the card, and then she informed the supposed landlord, who then took the money. But she soon learned that she had been scammed—there was no apartment, and in fact, the listing had been taken from another website, showing that it was actually a house for sale.
According to CBS Boston, Marroquin said, “I knew something was wrong,” and she then called Zanny Alter, who was one of her high school mentors.
“It was heartbreaking,” Zanny Alter, a counselor at Somerville High School, told the I-Team. “It was very upsetting on a lot of levels.”
Alter said she watched Marroquin overcome a lot of adversity to earn a diploma last summer, including raising a daughter alone with special needs (Angeli attends Beverly School for the Deaf).
Distraught and devastated by the scam, and now with no means to move out of the shelter, where she and her daughter had been staying for close to a year, there was no Christmas cheer in this mother’s heart.
But Alter wasn’t going to let some humbug scammers take the holiday spirit from this mother and her daughter. She set up an online fundraiser for the young mother, and it has raised over $11k in donations.
The outpouring of support has not only raised the young mother’s spirits, but restored her faith in humanity, knowing that there are so many kind people willing to help during this holiday season.
Marroquin is still looking for an apartment, but it will take some time, as affordable housing is hard to find even under the best of circumstances. But Marroquin pledges to be more careful about possible scams in the future, as she continues to work and go to community college.
These kinds of online rental scams are growing, according to the Portland Oregon FBI. Although these scams are sophisticated, there are many tips on the website on how to minimize your chances of being scammed. Renthop.com also offers some advice on how to not get scammed when looking for an apartment.