Kristy Kruse wants to sell her house, not rent it -- but try telling that to the guy who's using her home to scam Craigslist users.
A swindler calling himself Lance Green ripped photos of Kruse's house from her real estate agent's Web site and used them to set up a phony Craigslist rental ad for the small, red Mountain View home.
Kruse was surprised when she got a call from her real estate agent early last week about the scam, but she didn't take it lying down. She called the crook up and said she was looking for a rental.
"I asked him if there was a Web site where I can see the house, and he told me to just drive by," she said. Then she asked "Lance" to send photos. The files that showed up in her inbox were indeed pictures of the home she's lived in for 20 years.
Although Lance claims to live in San Diego, the phone numbers listed in his Craigslist ads have area codes 954 (Broward County, Fla.) and 201 (Bergen County, N.J.). When you call the New Jersey-based cell phone, Lance is polite and eager for you to drive over to Wal-Mart and wire $1,300 for the first month's rent.
The fast talker also introduces himself as Lance Renfro, indicating that he's ready with a full quiver of fake names.
The con artist says he and his wife Shannon are missionaries who lived in Anchorage for 18 years, and that when they moved to San Diego he couldn't find an honest rental agent. The lack of reliable agents, along with all the "problems with the banks," is why the money must be sent via wire transfer, he said.
"As soon as the transfer is confirmed, I can send you the keys immediately," he promised.
When this reporter sent an e-mail asking for more information about the house as well as a photo of the man himself, Lance replied within an hour:
"Great location! Just minutes to Universities or Hospitals. Townhouse style with three bedrooms, kitchen & living room upstairs. Fully fenced & tiered back yard. Fantastic for those who love to garden. New laminate and carpet just installed. Easy access to the trail system!" Kruse's house is a one-story, single-family log home.
Lance also included what he claimed was a photo of himself with his wife. Imagine an unsmiling couple leaning away from the camera, the man with a dark mustache and a dark double-breasted suit, the woman in a red halter that matches the handkerchief in her companion's suit pocket. The photo is date-stamped April 26, 2003.
Kruse said she's selling her house because she's moving back to Colorado Springs, Colo., along with her husband and daughter. Between her dogs, Buck and Dodger, and her padlocked front gate, the idea of someone trying to let themselves in isn't keeping her up at night.
"I'm not really worried about anyone coming in when I'm here, but when I'm gone I don't want somebody jumping the fence and breaking in," she said.
Still, Kruse said, it's a pretty brazen scam.
"Some things people do to try and get money," she said. "You think they'd have something better to do."
Contact Joshua Saul at jsaul_alaskadispatch.com.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing