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.