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WBRZ viewers rally to help woman who lost $1,500 to rental scam just before Christmas

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BATON ROUGE - A person caught up in a rental scam received some much-needed help after 2 On Your Side shared her story. Some viewers saw WBRZ's story with Genell Smalls and wanted to help out after she was taken advantage of.

"Food-wise it's affected us a lot, not being able to pay the rent has affected us a lot," Smalls said. "I'm hoping not to get kicked out. I'm praying."

A few weeks ago, Smalls was scammed out of $1,500 after she responded to a rental ad on Craigslist. She gave the money in good faith to the person who she thought was renting a house in Prairieville. Smalls said it took her six months to save up the money to move her family to a better neighborhood.

"It means I have to start back over again," she said.

Thanks to the generosity of some WBRZ viewers, Christmas came a little early. Some anonymous donors wanted Smalls to have a little cash to get back on her feet.

"That helps a lot," she said. "I just want to thank everybody for showing a little love and I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart."

While the donations will help Smalls get a jump start on her savings again, she doesn't want people to forget that scammer is still out there. A couple of weeks ago, 2 On Your Side responded to the Craigslist ad with phone number 570-443-1114 and got a response via text message with the exact same spiel Smalls did.

The scammer said, "I am married to a lovely woman and we are blessed with three kids. I am the kind of man who doesn't give what I can't eat, I believe in the golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated, I fear and respect God knowing he doesn't like ugly."

He also told 2 On Your Side he had recently transferred to Colorado and didn't have a local representative to show the house, but we could go by and look in the window if we'd like. He said if 2 On Your Side filled out an application, took a photo of a loaded OneVanilla card with the receipt, and texted it to him that he would send the lease and FedEx the keys to the house.

Knowing that the scammer is still doing this hit Smalls hard.

"Just to see that could happen to somebody else that quick it's like he didn't care that he took that money from me. He didn't care he messed my life up. He didn't care he took from my kids. He didn't care that he took from me," she said.

She's thankful for a little help from WBRZ viewers and hopes others don't fall for the same scam.

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