GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A West Michigan family was planning a dream vacation out west with their three kids this summer, but the day before their big trip, they say, a Craigslist scam changed their plans.
The family was out $1,600 after responding to an ad online, and the Midland County Sheriff’s Department says they received multiple calls about similar scams.
The family of five planned a camping vacation a year in advance.
“It was really hard for me to see my husband feel so bad about the whole thing,” said Laurie Guikema, the victim of the alleged Craigslist scam. "He was trying to make this great vacation for the family, and it just made me more upset at her because he was trusting her and she took advantage of that."
The Guikema's vacation included heading to Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park in late June.
“My husband went out west when he was a kid. It was his absolute favorite vacation, so he was like we have to do this,” said Guikema.
All they needed was an RV, so they went on Craiglist to look for something inexpensive, because they had a great experience prior with the website.
“Yeah we bought our minivan, and it was great,” she said.
They found a woman named Tanya Hunter who was renting out her RV for $1,600 in Midland County, and they jumped on the opportunity.
“We were like we want the RV, so let's go for it.”
The Guikemas didn’t move forward before taking what they thought were proper precautions. They signed a contract agreeing to pay a $600 security deposit and $1,000 rental fee upon booking.
“We definitely said we would like to sign something,” she said.
They had Ms. Hunter send them references, pictures of the RV and even went to go check it out in person.
“My husband actually drove to a horse show a couple hours away because her daughter shows horses. So he went to see the RV and go through it and make sure it was clean and as advertised,” she said.
Everything checked out, until a storm hit five days before their vacation.
“We got a call from her that the RV had gotten hit by a branch.”
Hunter said it was not drivable and refused to send her pictures of the damage. She claimed she would get it fixed in time.
“We were supposed to leave Saturday at 8 a.m., Friday [June 20], she called us and said it’s not going to be fixed.”
The Guikemas went on their vacation anyway and dished out extra money to stay in hotels for their adventure.
“Friday night she said I will send you a check Monday,” Guikema said.
When the family returned from their vacation two weeks later, there was no check. Since their vacation, they've only received $300 dollars from her.
“She was constantly trying to explain why she wasn't giving us the money, and we were sympathetic for the summer. Now it's October, and our trip was in June."
The Guikemas said Hunter has been unreachable, failing to answer her phone or e-mail. We reached out to Tanya Friday afternoon. She declined a phone interview but sent an e-mail saying she's working on repaying the Guikemas.
This isn't the first time this has happened. It happened to the Guikemas friends too. “Same thing: The week of the vacation, it’s 'broken,' and she still hasn't paid them back.”
FOX 17 News obtained court documents in which a different family took Hunter to small claims court for not giving them back their security deposit. Although the Guikemas are thankful that their family still got to go on vacation, they feel violated.
“It makes me angry that somebody does this repeatedly,” Guikema said.
After we contacted Hunter, she told the Guikemas she is sending their money.
The Midland County Sheriff’s Department says they are aware of the problem, and if anyone has had a similar scenario with Hunter to contact their department at 989-839-4621.
Hunter currently doesn't have any more Craiglist ads.