damn you, Justin Ghif

I pride myself on being pretty savvy in general. That’s why it’s all the more disappointing to me that I spent a whole ton of energy composing a reply email this morning before I finally got wise that it was all just a scam.

Like most scams it was, upon reflection, a “too good to be true” scenario; no, I’m not talking about an offer for millions of dollars if I’d only help out someone in Nigeria (see 419 scams.org). In this case it was a delightful looking one-bedroom condo for rent with a flexible lease via Craigslist. Now it so happens that a flexible lease is almost impossible to come by on the isthmus here in Madison, and as my work situation has been – shall we say “in flux” – and I’ve been thinking of downsizing from a two-bedroom, I was immediately intrigued; I sent the poster an email requesting a viewing.

What I got in reply was a request from the poster – for a credit report, complete with a link to a site where I could obtain one (why thank you!… how thoughtful).

The poster, yes, is one Justin Ghif. Or at least he is in name; of course no such person exists; a quick trip to Google (sorry, Bing) reveals that similar ads have been placed in at least a half-dozen other cities; the details are always slightly different – different interior pics (though all of them depict an A-class living space), different prices (but always below the market average for the geographic region) – but the appeal is the same; a sweet looking one-bedroom with pets allowed and flexible lease period in a great location downtown.

This is the ugly side of humanity. Not that someone is so desperate to earn a living – in a culture driven by money we’re all desperate to earn money – but that someone would choose to go about it by creating false ads that bait an eager apartment seeker (like myself) so that they could harvest credit information (one wonders if the poster is directly connected to the “credit site” to which it links or if there is some other gain he/she gets through bouncing from the linked site to its final destination).

No, Mr. Ghif (or whoever) did not get me really because I was smart enough to investigate before clicking through and I didn’t immediately hand-over any of my identity information. But, he/she did steal my time (I spent time carving out a very measured reply wherein I explained that I thought asking for a credit report before I’d even seen the apartment was a bit out of order) and my imagination – for the many hours that I waited (granted most of them sleeping last night) between my email inquiry and the reply, I had visions in my head of moving to a nice one-bedroom condo with washer/dryer inside and underground parking; and all while eschewing the 12-month lease stranglehold that landlords and management companies have on the downtown region.

So, damn you, Justin Ghif; with one hand, I shake a fist in your direction…

…while with the other hand, I’m reporting you to Craigslist, Anti-Phishing Working Group, and the Federal Trade Commission.

17 thoughts on “damn you, Justin Ghif”

  1. Hah, yeah, he has an apartment listed for $700 in Denver which turns out to be roughly $1700 in value.

    Its funny that in my initial email I explicitly TOLD him my credit score, which is why this sounded so damn phishy.

  2. Sir Justin Ghif posted one on Buffalo’s craigslist as well and I decided to google his name before any credit report scam was done. Thank you for the post and you saved me from falling into a GREAT DEAL and doing whatever I could to obtain it. Bummer- if this place does exist let me know because i’m interested in moving in! ;-)

  3. Yup. He posted one in NJ on craigslist and it looked too good to be true. E-mailed him and got the same response. Reported him to craigslist. Thank for putting this up. Really saved me a lot of time and trouble.

  4. The craigslist post is I think very well done; and/or I’m more gullible than I thought. Regardless I was excited about the place. Thanks for saving me the trouble!

  5. I also responded to an Ad by “Justin” I did click on the link in the e-mail, and fill out my credit report, but a legitimate site came up, and I entered my information in experian. Is there a way that he could view my personal information? If anybody could help me, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

  6. Same thing happened to me, but in my reply email he just wanted my credit score, not the entire report. Explicitly said not to send the entire report because of the confidential info. I actually clicked on the link, filled out the info and got my credit score, stupid I know. But it was a legit site – the only catch being they automatically sign you up for a credit monitoring plan with a monthly fee. (I have a similar plan through my bank.) However, if you call within the “trial period” you can cancel. I called their 866 number and reached the company, spoke with a customer service agent who tried to get me to keep the plan but when I insisted I didn’t need two fraud detection plans, she canceled it for me and gave me a confirmation number and also sent a confirmation email. I don’t know what this guy may have gotten from me, but at least I have documentation to use against him if necessary. I certainly never responded to his reply!

  7. Did any of you actually have your identity taken from him? I was unfortunate and didn’t have his name provided so I couldn’t google it…The website seemed totally legit. I gave my credit card info, social sec. number, and I feel so had. I feel like an idiot. It was a great 10th floor condo in sw 6th on Craigslist. I’ve put a fraud alert in with equifax, experian, and transunion, and have left a message for my bank to stop the payments on the “smartcredit.com” website info…

    I’ve even called the non-emergency phone police to file a report just to take preventative measures…man do I wish I saw this website before I did what I did…

  8. Thanks from Washington DC! I too was envisioning my life in a new condo and wondering why Justin had not written back. I did not follow the link. I just sent the scores from a recent credit report. I knew the offer seemed too good to be true, but I wanted to have some faith in humanity (and Craiglist). silly me.

  9. Sorry for yet another post, but I inquired about another gorgeous apt on Craiglist today only to receive an email identical to “Justin’s” reply about providing a credit score prior to a showing. Please be on the look out for a “Virginia Crimson” with a gmail account. Safe house hunting, y’all…

  10. Its not a real person, or at least, the person who is doing this is not the person they are claiming to be. There is a “Breenda Sipe” on craigslist advertising properties that are to good to be true, like $600 for a 2 bedroom home in oahu, which is impossible. Google her name and it comes up with a bunch of other properties in other cities with the same picture listed in all of them. This smartcredit.com company should be reported to The Better Business Bureau http://www.bbb.org/complaints/file.html and The National Fraud Information Center: http://www.fraud.org

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