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SCAMMED! Female Roommate Wanted

June 18th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Safiyyah Ballard

FOR RENT: Room in my 1000-square-foot apartment. The $315 rent includes utilities, cable, and high speed Internet. The apartment is fully furnished, except for the room available for rent.

Great location, LTD bus stop and grocery stores are across the street. Will need a $150 deposit, a list of three references and proof of income.

Contact Sophie. I will email pics if you are interested. The room will be available in August.

No pets (sorry) and no smoking (inside). Party animals need not apply.

That’s the ad I placed on Craigslist in search of a roommate for Fall semester. My boyfriend had left Utah for work back East, and splitting expenses with a roommate seemed a good idea. I thought I was vague enough to deter drug addicts and slatterns. I wanted the ad to be kind of stand-offish, but to relay the message that I’m not too uptight.

Mission: Failed.

I have lived overseas for most of my life, so I’m not shocked by the odd living situations of those who travel a lot. I often give up too much information to strangers when I first meet them. I say things like, “Oh, I live right across from there!” or “I’m wearing a weave.” My boyfriend usually gives me a look that says, “Why would you tell a stranger that?” I am a little too trusting sometimes. I am a sweetheart, but I know I can kick ass or spray mace when needed. Kobe Bryant ain’t the only Black Mamba. I’ve got a mean left hook.

Right now, my queen-size box spring is in the middle of the floor of my available room—I had to make sure “Janice’s“ furniture would fit. I was so concerned with accommodating my new British roommate—who promised to hang out with me on the weekends—that I glazed over the red flags in her emails. I was fantasizing about going to brunch with her and my friends at Iron Gate Grill on Sundays and hiking the wind caves. She sent me a picture and she’s a little chunky. I was even prepared to help her lose some weight by doing Turbo Jam with her. Well, she ruined that.

“Janice Mellborg,” as she identified herself, said she would be shipping her car. As I said, I have lived overseas, and shipping a car is expensive. Carnation pink flag: As Rob reminded me, the steering wheel is on the other side. Salmon-colored flag: Janice offered to send me a check with the shipper’s fee and my rent fee. All I had to do was have the cash for the shipper. Juicy tomato red flag! Abort mission!

Unfortunately, I’d sent my address and real name by the second email. There has been no financial information exchanged. “Janice” said her father was ill in Germany and she wanted to be with him, but would ship her things and pay me for storage. Oh, Janice. That is so sweet of you, but don’t worry about that. You go take care of Papa.

Rob told me the email looked suspicious because Janice revealed too many personal details. “That’s just how women are,” I scoffed. Rob said the grammatical errors were too frequent for someone who said she had lived in the U.S. for most of her childhood. I accused him of xenophobia and cerebrally apologized to Janice. I finally put down my liberal guilt long enough to investigate a little more. I re-read the emails at least 30 times. It started to upset me. The lines I skipped earlier were my focus. It was all wrong. I felt myself get hot.

I googled “Craigslist Roommate Scams” and found carbon copy emails just like the ones I had received. Janice, how could you? I Googled “Janice Mellborg” and got no matches. I paid $10.95 with my debit card to unearth the identity of the email account holder. No name found. The IP address, however, was in Dulles, Virginia. So Janice was in Virginia, not in the UK en route to Germany to care for her ailing Papa. What the hell? You lying little…

Now, my black girl neck is rolling. I’m talking Floyd Mayweather-caliber trash about what I’m going to do to this broad. But no matter how much I want to lash out, I have no real recourse.

What did I expect from a website that has been connected with murders, rapes, scams and seedy ads? I honestly expected that it would have a good outcome. My KSL ad wasn’t doing so hot, and I found a great roommate last year through a Craigslist ad. What sickens me the most is that I was sought out. I never volunteered the information until I received it. I never considered that I was receiving false information.

Where do I go from here? I’ll delete the email account that I used to correspond with “Janice.” I have blocked her, and I will give the Logan Police Department the little information I have. I gave someone my physical address over email. I have to admit I’m nervous. Rob assured me that there’s not much to worry about.

But there is a feeling of violation. This does not compare to a physical attack, but I feel vulnerable, nonetheless. I am worried that revealing my name and address will result in some type of negative outcome. I gave my real information to someone that had cruel intentions.

I go to great lengths to preserve my online privacy. I have complained about social networking privacy policies in the past. I try and limit what information I make available. I cannot believe I fell for this crap. I never thought myself an easy mark.

Well played, Janice. Well played.


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  1. 2 Responses to “SCAMMED! Female Roommate Wanted”

  2. By Richard on Jun 21, 2010

    Thank you for sharing this story. I read this on smithfieldsun.com

    Sorry it happened, though 🙁

  3. By Annamarie on Jun 21, 2010

    Thanks for telling your story. I think it will help others not fall for it. Unfortunately with Craigslist and other internet ad services one has to be very, very careful. Craigslist has some good warnings, including “Deal locally with folks you can meet in person.” This can’t be emphasized enough.

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