Protecting yourself

Credit report hustle moves to Craigslist

Tyler Metzger

Move over; the battle to dupe people into paying for a credit report has moved to Craigslist.

My name is Tyler Metzger, and I'm a scam blocker.

I recently discovered this after posting to the “housing wanted” section on the online classifieds. In my post, I stated my price range and location preferences. A few days later, I received an e-mail from someone named Stephine [sic] Friedman. She simply asked, “Hi there, has anybody filled your housing needs yet?”

I replied with a negative, and interestingly enough, I received an e-mail back from her within five seconds. She said:

Hi there, nice to hear from you. Well that’s good because I have many places available for you in the area. What’s your exact price range? How soon were you looking to move? Before I show you any listings I’d like to get a feel of what you’d qualify for, we can do this by getting your credit score. Our office has a relationship with a credit report company to give our clients free credit reports, if you’d like to get one through our partner go to or you can get one through your own means, just please get this to me and we can get you into something. I look forward to speaking with you.

I have to admit that for a couple of seconds I thought the response was real. Plus, I wouldn’t mind some completely unsolicited help. I even visited the Web site, which redirects you to a company called SmartCredit. But the disclaimer caught my eye:

The use of the term “free” (such as in free smart credit report) may sometimes also refer to a free-trial period Membership. In some cases we may use free to denote a free SMART Action you may be entitled to during your free-trial period or during your Membership. All of our services have a monthly Membership fee after any free-trial period. If you do not wish to have our monthly Membership service and want to avoid any charges, as shown in Membership Options & Pricing below, please cancel your Membership “within” your free trial period.

Upon deeper inspection, the “free” credit report will cost you $1 for processing, and could cost you up to $30 a month if you don’t cancel your membership within the 5-day trial period. That aside, the immediate response I got after sending “Stephine” an e-mail meant something was up. So I replied in rude fashion and explained where she could put her free credit report. And that was that; I never heard back.

Until the next day. This time the message asking if I needed help finding a house was from one Autumn Harvey. He or she asked verbatim what “Stephine” asked me. I replied by stating that my credit score was 9,342, which is a pretty good score I think. I got this message back a few seconds later:

Hiii, thanks for mailing me back. I found this article on the Times website: Is working online the next gold rush ….and it’s very interesting. I already made some money from reading what the article had to offer 🙂 you should check it out.

What the …? The link goes to a story from the reputable Online Times, Texas Times Edition about Mary, who surprisingly lives in the same town I do, and how she makes about $5,500 a month posting links to Google. Unfortunately, I can’t learn any more about Mary or what she does because that’s the only story the Online Times has published, and comments are closed “due to spam.”

All the links within the story and around the page redirect you to a Web site run by My Search Cash. They want to sell you a “money-making success kit,” and once you’ve bought that, you can “sit back and enjoy the instant success of the Internet.” The kit costs $1.95, but if you don’t cancel your trial, you’ll be billed $49.95 A MONTH.

So basically these tricksters found a way to jam multiple hustles into one. Need a place to live? Here’s an e-mail selling you a $30 credit report and another e-mail selling you a packet of “the Internet.” Pretty slick, huh?

So, if you get any mail like the junk I just talked about, trash it and report it to Craigslist. And if you need a credit report, get if for real free at

See related: Interactive guide to understanding your credit report, “Free trail” offers can bring unwanted credit card charges, How to dispute credit report errors, A comprehensive guide to the Credit CARD Act of 2009

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  • Tyler Metzger
    I am the CMO of ConsumerDirect, the makers of Thank you for your article. I want you to know that we are not directly running this kind of deceptive campaign. We were not made aware this was going on until you pointed it out in your blog. An affiliate of one of our networks was running. As you can see it’s a problem beyond our service…they are now just sending it to another credit offer.
    We immediately brought this to this networks attention and have banned them from our offer. They are in clear violation of our marketing guidelines. I have also made an announcement to all of our other marketing partners saying this kind of marketing is unacceptable and will come with consequences. We are doing everything possible to combat these unfair marketing tactics.
    We are a legitimate service provider. We have a revolutionary system that helps people manage their credit with a button. If you’d like, I can provide you a free membership. My hope is that you can see the positive side of what we do, rather then what unfortunately you saw was us/the consumer being taken advantage of by an affiliate.
    Thanks again for your time. Please feel free to call or email me if you’d like to discuss further.
    Ethan Taub

  • Sarah

    I have been looking for a new place to rent on craigslist recently and have found that this kind of scam is all over! A majority of people have respond to my inquiries about their properties with no additional information about the place, but a request for my credit score. They say that there is a company they use to provide free reports and provide a link to various credit report sites. I have been directed to as well and it is nice to see the response from them.
    How are we supposed to know who to do this for if companies like smartcredit are ligit? My first reaction is that there is no way I would give my credit card info to a website provided to me through an email.

  • Sarah:
    Thank you for your reply.
    There are many legit services that provide free credit reports. But receiving unsolicited e-mail from companies is a good sign that it could be spam or even contain a virus.
    The best way to get a legit credit report is by going to You can request a report by mail or phone, too. Here’s a story about it to help you further:

  • Michael Weinsoff

    I just wanted to say that you are obviously lying. I actually happened to get the same exact response, and after I gave them my credit score, they set me up for an appointment to see a condo….and I ended up renting it. I am typing from my computer in the condo so you can suck it!

  • Loretta

    thank you for your report! I am currently looking for a job on craigslist and so far all I have gooten are these vague responses form ‘HR’ department heads telling me I must first go to their preferred web site to obtain a ‘free credit report’ and then email them and they will set up an interview. No mention as to what the job position is or the pay or even the location.When I write them back and ask for this, I get an immediate reply with the same email as the first time. I have not applied for the credit report for any of these because I was very doubtful and thought it was an odd request. I wrote to craigslist but so far have not gotten a response from them. I will know now, not to respond to these scammers. Thank you again!

  • Stephanie

    I have also applied for jobs on Craig’s List and have gotten these responses asking for my credit report and then links to websites. I was suspicious because I thought it was odd that they ask for this information before an interview…it didn’t feel right. I did have an interview with a nonprofit some months ago, a very well known and respected nonprofit. They said they would do a background check and a credit check, I wasn’t asked to do anything on my part. I also had received the email at 1 am on a Monday morning…that really didn’t feel right. Glad I found your article! Now I know to just delete these emails. Thanks!

  • Lauren

    Hi Tyler, just letting you know that this is still going on. I was doing a search for scams online because I, like you, received a link to the website after inquiring about a rental posting on craigslist. A red flag in my head went off when the people who replied to me replied back with this.
    Here is the reply I got when inquiring about the address of a rental unit on craigslist. I’m posting it here so that everyone can see what something like this looks like. If you ever get something like this, DON’T SUBMIT INFO TO THE WEBSITE!
    Thank you for contacting regarding the rental. At this time, the apartment is available.
    To schedule a showing, we are requiring all prospective tenants to provide us with their most recent credit score.
    Your credit score is a simple way for us to learn more about your financial history.
    Your credit score will allow us to determine that you will make payments on time.
    Accessing your latest credit score is easy and free. Please go to the following provider to check your most recent credit score (and also your report): (URL deleted)
    Once you have attained your credit score, please send it to us within this e mail so we can move ahead to schedule a showing.
    Regarding Ethan Taub’s reply: Irregardless as to whether or not your company is “legitimate” the fact that this is still going on 3 years AFTER your reply on this back means that your company clearly doesn’t know or care to control its affiliates. Simply putting out fires is not enough. Clearly there have to be measures put into place to better screen your affiliates.