COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Sherry Morfitt-Shumway and her wife thought their search for a rental home was over when they found a cute two-bedroom home just blocks from downtown Colorado Springs.
The house listed as "cozy" and "quaint" was well within their budget. The problem? It was never for rent at all.
Someone had made a phony listing using images of a property that did not belong to them, even going so far as to ask for hundreds of dollars in rent and a deposit.
Morfitt-Shumway and her wife are like several others in the Riverside Mobile Home Park in Fountain -- they need to move out fast. The park is washing away at the base of a 30-foot cliff that leads to Fountain Creek. El Paso County has bought the land because of those landslides.
So they turned to Craigslist.
Morfitt-Shumway said interactions with the Craigslist poster named "Joyce" seemed unusual right off the bat.
"We kept asking for her phone number over and over and over again, and she just wouldn't give it to us," she said.
Eventually "Joyce" agreed on a deposit, rent amount and said she'd meet the couple at the house on Mother's Day.
"We planned our day accordingly. We cut everything short just to go and rent this house. She never showed up, didn't email us, nothing," Morfitt-Shumway told 11 News reporter Danielle Kreutter.
That's when she knew something wasn't right. She got on the El Paso County Assessor's website and found that the property owners' name is not "Joyce," it's Mari Lea Chambers. Chambers has owned the house for around 40 years. It's been vacant for the last several years.
Morfitt-Shumway tracked down Chambers' primary address and showed up Monday night to warn her about what was happening.
"I was like, 'I'm so sorry to tell you, somebody is trying to make money off your home,'" Morfitt-Shumway said of their conversation.
"I am so thankful to her ... I would have never known," Chambers said.
Chambers told 11 News she had been deciding whether or not she should sell the house and believes that the fake Craigslist poster probably got pictures of her property from an old online real estate listing.
"I think they're awful. I mean, how mean can you be?" she said.
Kreutter decided to see for herself what would happen if she responded to the phony ad. She reached out -- and received a rental application.
Colorado Springs police said if whoever posted the fake Craigslist post actually got any money from the scheme, that person could face anywhere between misdemeanor computer crime charges to more serious charges, depending on how much money they got.