Life As a Travel Nurse – How I Lost $4,600 in a Scam

life as a travel nurse
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I’ve been a travel nurse for 3+ years now moving every 3(ish) months, traversing the country, and learning as I go.  All of that moving around and meeting new people comes with a plethora of stories!  Both good and bad.  But this post isn’t a post about all of the great times I’ve had in my life as a travel nurse (pst if you’re looking for that… check out this post).  Instead, this post is to share one of the worst times in my life as a travel nurse and how I’ve managed to persevere since.  Because trust me, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies when you’re traveling as often as I am.  This is a story that reflects poorly on me and my skill to detect red flags.  So buckle up through this cringe-worthy story of red flag after red flag and try not to judge too much.

 

Life As a Travel Nurse

 

From Santa Barbara to Phoenix, Prepping to Move and Red Flag #1

After I left my third travel nurse assignment in Santa Barbara, CA I chased the summer well into winter and landed myself a job in Phoenix, Arizona.  Contract #4.  I accepted this job in Phoenix while I was still working in Santa Barbara so I had plenty of time to find housing and prep for my move.  Late one night when I was working I started to browse Zillow (do not use Zillow as a travel nurse) and began to reach out to multiple homeowners asking if I could rent their places that were advertised.  Early that next morning on my drive home, I got a phone call from Ron (real name).  He told me that he would happily rent out his place to me for $2,000/month.  Confused, I asked him which place was his because I know that I did not reach out to any apartments that were more than $1,800/month.  He then asked me what my budget was and I stupidly told him, “Between $1,500 and $1,800/month”.  (Nurses – do not give a range like this.  Know what you’re willing to pay, then go under that amount so that you can meet at the amount you want to pay).  He told me he would be willing to meet me at $1,800 as long as I gave him a yes or no answer on the spot.  Drowsy from the night shift, I dumbly said “yes”.  Later that day I did go back to Zillow to see that he was advertising his apartment for $1,600.  But I didn’t have the energy to put up a fight or look for housing any longer so I folded.

So we agreed on rent, $1,800/month = $5,400 for a fully furnished, one-bedroom apartment, utilities included.

 

Being Bullied by My New Landlord – Red Flag #2

It turns out that Ron is quite the chatty old man (he’s 65).  From the time that I agreed to rent his apartment, he called me every single day until I moved in.  For the first few days, it seemed that he would just call to chat about the nuances of life.  He told me about how he’s raising a 10-year old daughter with his ex-wife.  And how they like to ride bikes.  And a whole load of other things I couldn’t have cared less about.  But I wanted to please my new landlord so I would laugh at his dumb jokes and let him chat for a few minutes before I told him I had to “run”.

It wasn’t until a week had passed since we had agreed I’d rent his place that Ron called me and requested that I send him a check for the full amount of rent ($5,400) upfront.  Now, not even I am stupid enough to agree to that.  I told him that this made me uncomfortable and that I’d be willing to send him a check for $1,000 for a “down payment” and once I saw the apartment I would write him a check for the remaining amount of $4,400).  He agreed that this was fair – as long as when I arrived at the apartment I would be paying the rest of the money in cash.  I pushed back a bit but ultimately gave in to his request because I was sick of being on the phone him.  So, I wrote Ron a check for $1,000, put it in the mail, and then proceeded to answer a phone call every single day until he received the check because he was making sure that I “truly sent it”.

 

The Mystery of Using a “Small Bank” – Red Flag #3

Finally, when the check arrived to Ron a few days later he informed me that he received it.  I thought I was out of the woods and could go back to enjoying my last few weeks in Santa Barbara, unbothered, but Ron had other plans.  He noticed that I banked at a bank in Nebraska, one that isn’t nationally recognized, and he was concerned because he banked out of a small bank in Chicago.  He didn’t know how the money could get transferred despite my explaining to him over and over things he could do.  He requested that I changed my bank to Bank of America – which I didn’t.  He then requested that I mail him $1,000 cash instead – which I didn’t.  And finally, he said that he’d have a “church friend” cash it for him.  I thought that this was bizarre but again, the guy is 65 years old.  I thought… maybe he’s just clueless?

A few days later I got a phone call from someone at Ron’s church asking me if I was really okay with him cashing the check.  I should have sensed the uncertainty in his voice but instead just said, “YUP”!  He cashed the check and I finally felt relieved that Ron was off my back.  That was until…

 

I Realize that Ron MUST be Senile – Red Flag #4

About a week after I sent the $1,000 check to Ron he called me telling me that he wanted the rest of the money – $4,400)  NOW, in cash.  And that if I didn’t mail it to him he was going to rent to someone else.  I told him that it was a ridiculous request and I there’s no way in hell I’d be paying him until I got to the apartment.  I cried, he yelled, I yelled back… it wasn’t pretty.  However, I knew that I had already given this man $1,000 and didn’t want to lose that money.  It also didn’t help that my dad, the most selfless individual on the planet kept telling me, “Oh Kylee, he basically lived through the Great Depression.  All of those older people get nervous about losing their money and want it upfront and in cash to hold on to it for safekeeping.  Stop being so paranoid”.  If only I could’ve gone back in time…

We ended up agreeing (again) that I would give him the rest of the $4,400 in cash once I arrived at the apartment.  So I went to the ATM but was only able to withdraw $3,600.  I was $800 short, but of course, I didn’t tell him this news.

 

The Day I Meet Ron – Red Flag #5

After much anticipation, I had finally arrived in Phoenix.  I picked up a friend (no way I was meeting Ron alone) and drove straight to my new apartment.  Ron greeted me at the door and everything appeared to be normal.  The apartment resembled the pictures with only two differences.  The first was that the queen size bed had disappeared and instead there was a full-size mattress on the floor – not ideal, but liveable.  And the second was that the master closet was stuffed to the brim of his 10-year-old daughter’s toys.  Again, not ideal but liveable.

I handed over the $3,600 in cash and told him that I was unable to get the rest of the money from the ATM and I could get it tomorrow and we agreed to meet in two days.  He didn’t put up a fight, which I’m assuming is because my friend was with me, and he very kindly told me he would see me in two days.

We said our goodbyes and I spent the evening unpacking.

 

The Big Blowup – Red Flag #6

Once Ron had left and I had unpacked my bags I sat down to use my computer.  I realized that he didn’t provide me with the WiFi network and password, something we agreed would be included, so I called and asked him for it.  He told me that the apartment didn’t come with WiFi, that we did not discuss that, and I did not need WiFi.  He told me that if I needed it, I could go to the clubhouse to use it.  So I told him that I wouldn’t be giving him the $800 until he set up the WiFi that we agreed on.  To which he responded, “Then you might just come home one day and learn that the locks have been changed”.

At this point, I realized my big mistake.  I had just give this piece of shit $4,600 of my hard-earned money.  I ran out of the apartment hysterically crying when the next-door neighbors stopped me.  (A very old, very sweet couple from Canada who lived in Arizona during the winter months).  The neighbors took one look at me, looked at each other, and back at me, and said, “You moved into ‘Ron the con’s’ place, didn’t you?”  They invited me inside and sat me down giving me food and water.  They informed me that Ron had just gotten out of jail, for what, they didn’t know.  They said that it wasn’t even his apartment and that he was renting from some lawyer out in San Francisco.  (I did contact the lawyer and the lawyer told me that he gave Ron permission to rent the apartment for a few months because he couldn’t afford rent).

At this point, I decided to get the police involved.  A nice cop showed up to my apartment and took my statement.  She said for privacy reasons that she couldn’t tell me why Ron was in jail but she would go through his history and if she felt like I was going to be unsafe she would come back to get me.  She also informed me of an Arizona law that says that if my personal belongings are in the apartment, Ron has no right to touch them or remove them.  This means that it would be illegal for him to throw my stuff out on his own.  So I decided to leave my stuff and get a flight back to Nebraska to clear my head for a week and decide what my next move should be.

The next morning I called and told Ron that there was an emergency and I was going home.  I wasn’t able to meet him to give him the rest of the money but I swore to him that I would meet him the second I flew back next week.  He agreed, what other choice did he have?

 

Ron Trespasses – Red Flag #7

While I was at home I was still debating whether or not to stay in the apartment.  My dad told me that, “Guys like this just want their money.  Once you give him the $800 he’ll leave you alone”.  Back and forth, back and forth.

A few days after I left Arizona I got a call from the neighbors – Ron was in my apartment.  At this point I was livid.  I called the old creep and asked him what he was doing.  He stated that the lights were on and he was simply turning them off and “cleaning up”.  This is when I finally decided to move out, despite having already paid him $4,600.  I didn’t tell him that my plan was to move out because I wanted to safely get my stuff back first and then call him once I was out of the apartment.

 

Moving Out – The Final Red Flag #8

I booked a flight back to Arizona earlier than when I told Ron I would be back.  I wanted to go get my stuff and then tell him that I had left – hoping to avoid any interaction.  Luckily, I had friends in town that week and they agreed to go to the apartment with me to get my stuff.

When I arrived at the apartment, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I saw Ron walk up to my apartment door, slide his key in the lock, and go inside.  He hadn’t seen me.  My friends and I went to the door and when I put my key in I noticed the lock had been changed.  I knocked and yelled his name and he acted like he wasn’t there.  I finally screamed, “I’M CALLING 911” and I’ve never seen an old man move so quickly.  He swung the door open and told me I couldn’t enter unless I gave him $1,000.  I pushed past him and threw my stuff in bags.  When I confronted him about my things being moved around the apartment he said, “You’re messy and I was cleaning up after you”.  He had also made the bed that I had slept in because he claimed that, “You shouldn’t leave your bed unmade”.  Creep.

I ended up moving into a great apartment in Scottsdale, hassle-free, for a cheaper price.  Although it still pains me to realize that I spent $4,600 to stay somewhere just one night, I can’t change it so I choose to learn from it.  The month following the Ron situation I got a text from him every week demanding I give him the rest of the money I owed him – $800.  He even managed to get my dad’s cell phone number somehow and left him a voicemail telling him, “I’m very worried about Kylee.  She didn’t pay me her rent and I want to make sure she’s okay”.

Relief came a few months later.  My neighbors sent me a picture of Ron’s door with an eviction notice taped to it.  The asshole was getting kicked out.  My neighbors told me he would walk around the complex telling everyone how I screwed him over.  They told me nobody believed him.

 

Looking back I don’t believe that Ron (the con) had any intention of renting to me.  I think that if I would have stayed I would have had the same issues with him coming into my apartment unannounced.  The hard pill to swallow here is that I ignored at least eight red flags.  There were eight times that I should’ve stopped and realized something fishy was going on.  Eight times I could’ve saved myself a lot of time and money.  But that isn’t how things turned out.  What I’ve taken from this life lesson is that it’s essential to follow your gut instinct.  Especially if you’re a female travel nurse traveling alone.  I haven’t experienced anyone like Ron since, and I sincerely hope that nobody else deals with him in the future.  I hope this is a lesson to everyone that life as a travel nurse isn’t 100% great, 100% of the time.

 

Of note:

  1.  I contacted Zillow and they told me they wouldn’t speak to me unless a lawyer was present.
  2. I contacted a lawyer and they said I had a bad case because no contract was ever signed.
  3. I contacted the lady who listed Ron’s apartment to tell her about my experience and she told me that she didn’t believe me and he was nothing but nice to her on the phone.
  4. When I told my recruiter what happened she told me that she was able to reimburse me $50.

 


Read more:  Resources for Finding Housing As a Travel Nurse


 

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Kylee is a traveling Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. She has spent 6 years caring for babies in the NICU and is an expert on travel nursing. Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering as a nurse in Skopje, Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – A vacation geared towards nurses aiming to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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4 Comments

  1. May 7, 2020 / 1:06 pm

    Ohh noo!! What a story! Getting scammed is the worst but it can happen to the best of us.

    • May 7, 2020 / 2:43 pm

      I know… I’ve heard a lot of stories of other travel nurses getting scammed as well and I hate that!

  2. Kassi
    May 9, 2020 / 10:19 pm

    OMG. I forgot about all these details. Scary!!!!!

    • May 10, 2020 / 3:29 am

      I really had to search my mind long and far to remember everything! What a creep!

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