Patricia Martinez, 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. Martinez and her daughter, who is deaf, were excited to begin this new chapter in their lives.
Martinez had found the apartment through an online listing, 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 Martinez 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 —which were all her savings 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.
“I knew something was wrong,” Martinez said and she then called Fran Alter, who was one of her high school mentors.
“It was heartbreaking,” Fran Alter, a counselor at Somerville High School, told us. “It was very upsetting on a lot of levels. I knew Patricia since her first day in high school; she had lost her mom at age 7 and never knew her dad. Growing up and losing family members, one after another, kept Patricia homeless all of her childhood. She basically grew up from a substitute family to another.”
Alter said she watched Martinez overcome a lot of adversity to earn a diploma last summer, including raising a daughter alone with special needs
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 invited them to stay with her until Patricia found another place to live. While they were there, Alter 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. Martinez pledges to be more careful about possible scams in the future, as she continues to work and go to community college.
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