There is a lovely disabled lady who lives in England that owns an amazing 2 bedroom apartment in the rue de Bretagne and is renting it out ridiculously cheap. I met her on Craigslist when I put up a post saying that a young professional couple is looking for an apartment to rent – right bank preferred, 2 bedroom ideal. One email jumped out amongst the others because it was such a good deal. An incredible apartment that just sits there right above the busy bustling street – the good end. It’s where she used to live but when she became to old and disabled to get up the stairs she moved back to England to be close to her family.Too old and disable I mean. She says that in her email. She is disable.
Her name is Ann Mathias.
Like many Paris home-owners she is concerned with who she rents the place out to – preferring to keep it empty because of the tenant-favouring French rental laws. So we have to convince Ann that we’re worthy – which I do by sending her lots of emails and even a photo of us at our wedding. We’re nice people. We won’t trash her apartment.
After months of communication, emails, getting to know each other, she asks if she can speak with me over the phone – just to connect. This is nice. It’s human. So I call. She can’t come to the phone but I speak with her husband – a lovely man who again explains their situation and fears about renting the place out to strangers. I put on my best voice. I am gentle and kind. I tell him all about myself and about Mr Rabbit and about our work and history. He still sounds a bit sceptical but I think I’ve won him over. He asks us to just send a 800 euro bond via moneygram, just to secure the place. This is very reasonable. My gosh – what place like that, in such a beautiful Paris street, would go for 800 euros a month?
It’s so good. Too good to be true.
But the day I go to Moneygram the exchange rate seems so exorbitant that I can’t bring myself to pay. I am unversed in such matters. I tell Mr Rabbit.
“Yeah,” he sighs, “That’s probably about right. The exchange rates are always crazy in dodgy places like Moneygram.”
“Oh,” I say and go back the next day to pay.
But the girl behind the counter is a bitch. It makes me feel uncomfortable and instead I pick a fight with her. I leave again without paying the money.
That night I tell Mr Rabbit he will need to go down to the Moneygram place and pay the money in the morning.
“You know,” he says. “People who ask you to pay money via Moneygram are usually scammers.”
I think about Ann Mathias in her wheelchair. So lovely. Her charming broken English. “I am disable.” Poor Ann Mathias. Lovely Ann Mathias who thinks we are a lovely looking couple. Sweet Ann Mathias in one of those mechanical chairs that hums her up and down from the bathroom in her suburban English home. Maternal Ann Mathias with her lovely gaggle of grandchildren leaning on her knees as she reads them Bye Baby Bunting. Poor rich Ann Mathias with her apartment just sitting there in the Rue de Bretagne.
“Yeah it sure feels all scammy in that awful Moneygram joint,” I concur. “But this is Ann. She’s so lovely. Plus we’ve spoken with her husband. It’s real.”
So the next day I sit in the car with Mr Rabbit as he runs in to the Moneygram office and pays the 800 euros. He sits back down in the car with the receipt number we now just have to give to Ann Mathias so she collect the cash at the other end.
As we drive Mr Rabbit is silent.
“What is it?” I ask.
“You know,” he says. “This has all the hallmarks of a good scam.”
“No!” I declare – “No way!” and proceed to list the evidence.
- Ann Mathias’ kind, human, disabled responses.
- Talking to her husband.
- The photos of the beautiful apartment.
- The google-mapping of their address in England – a charming middle class house that exists.
We arrive at our office. I notice a slightly niggling sick feeling in my belly. I sit down and type into google:
My eyeballs are immediately blinded by the screen:
SCAM ***** SCAM ** ATTENTION FRAUD ALERT **** BEWARE FRAUD BEWARE ***
Ann Mathias, the naughty Englishman fortunately never got our money. But the weirdest thing is that I still kind of miss Ann. She really became a good friend.