Craigslist is a popular website for buying and selling items and services, but it also attracts criminals who try to scam people out of their money. Scams on Craigslist can take many forms, including car scams, certified check scams, and personnel scams. To protect yourself from these scams, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and know how to avoid them. By following some simple precautions, you can still safely buy and sell on Craigslist.
How to Instantly Identify a Craigslist Scam?
Although scammers have many tricks up their sleeves, you can more easily spot fake Craigslist ads by keeping an eye out for common red flags. Here are a few telltale signs that a Craigslist post is counterfeit.
Craigslist red flags
- Poor spelling or grammar
- Generic stock product photos
- The same ad was posted in multiple cities
- Post created by someone living outside the country
Types of Craigslist ads with high scam risk:
- Used phones
- Rentals (home and apartment)
- Autos (buying and selling)
While you should definitely be alert to Craigslist ads displaying any of the above red flags, it’s not always an immediate disqualification. Our advice is to simply proceed with caution and use your judgment, especially when dealing with higher-risk items that have a higher likelihood of fraud.
Common Craigslist Scams
Craigslist Car Scams
Craigslist car scams can ensnare both buyers and sellers. As used cars are a common item on Craigslist and tend to be more expensive, they attract scam artists. These fraudsters often use low prices to lure in car buyers, as it can be difficult to resist a good deal. In some instances, the scammer may pose as a buyer and pay too much for the car, then request a refund for the excess payment. If the buyer accepts the fake check and refunds any money, they lose the funds and still have the car to sell.
Craigslist Employment Scam
Craigslist is unfortunately a platform that is often targeted by scammers who prey on individuals searching for employment. These scams can come in the form of email or text messages offering high paying jobs, and the perpetrators rely on the victim’s desperation for a good job opportunity to lure them in. It’s important to be aware of these employment scams on Craigslist and to be cautious when considering any job offer.
Craigslist Verification Scam
If you express interest in buying an item, you may receive a fraudulent email that appears legitimate and asks you to follow a link to a site with a name like craigslist safe or a similar name that seems legitimate. This site will ask you to provide your credit card information or other personal information, such as your SSN, claiming that it is only for age verification purposes. However, the “verification” link you received is actually part of a Craigslist email scam, and the site you entered your information on is fake. Cybercriminals use your credit card information to steal money and use your personal information for identity theft.
Craigslist Cashier’s Check Scam
The buyer contacts you about the item you are selling and asks to pay extra for shipping. They give a reason why they cannot pick up the item in person. They promise to send a cashier’s check in the mail. Once the check clears at your bank, they ask you to transfer the extra funds they paid to a supposed shipper. However, this is actually a fake shipping company, and the money will go directly to them. After about a week or two, you will receive a notification from your bank that the check was counterfeit and the money will be taken out of your account. As a result, you will lose any money you paid to the fake shipper as well as the item if you have already shipped it.
Craigslist PayPal Scam
Craigslist scams that involve PayPal are common because PayPal is a well-known and trusted payment service. These scams may involve a buyer who claims they will send a PayPal payment but never does, or a seller who sends a fake PayPal email to the buyer asking them to log into their account to send payment or track a non-existent item. This email often leads to a fake PayPal site, and if the buyer is not careful to check the URL, they may unknowingly provide their login credentials to the scammer.
Craigslist eBay Scam
While browsing Craigslist, you come across a listing for a car that seems like a great deal. The seller directs you to the same listing on eBay and tells you that you can take a test drive for 5 days with no risk, protected by the eBay Motors Buyer Protection Program. You receive a text or email from eBay (which is actually a Craigslist scam) confirming the legitimacy of the purchase and protection. However, once you make the payment to the seller, the car is never delivered and you discover that the eBay protection does not cover the fraudulent transaction.
Here are a few of the other scams on Craigslist to watch out for:
- Fake rental property scam
- Fake or canceled event tickets scam
- Cell phone scam
- Cheap moving company scam
- “Too Good to Be True Deal” Craigslist buyer scam
- The VIN report scam
How to Avoid Craigslist Scams?
Besides the tips we’ve given above for each of the top Craigslist scams, you can also check for a Craigslist scammer list that has emails of known crooks. It’s also smart to file a Craigslist fraud report to alert them to the scammer so they can take appropriate action.
- Do not provide payment to anyone you have not met in person.
- Use a second phone number to assure your data security and your personal life.
- Beware offers involving shipping -deal with locals you can meet in person.
- Never wire funds – anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
- Transactions are only between users, no third party provides a “guarantee.”
- Deal locally, face-to-face—follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
- Refuse background/credit checks until you have met the landlord/employer in person.
- Never give out financial information (bank account, social security, PayPal account, etc.)
- Don’t accept cashier/certified checks or money orders – banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
- Any message asking you to access or check “craigslist voicemails” or “craigslist voice messages” is fraudulent, for there is no such service.
How to Report a Scam on Craigslist
If you receive a Craigslist scam text or email or run into a Craigslist cashier’s check scam (or any other scam), you can file a Craigslist fraud report on their website by using their contact form for reporting scams.
If you’re wondering exactly how to report a scam on Craigslist, here is a step-by-step:
- From the front page, look in the left column and click “avoid scams & fraud”
- Beneath a list of agencies that you can also contact, click “send us the details”
- Click “scams, spam, flagging”
- Choose the type of Craigslist scam you’re reporting
- Click “Contact us” and fill in the form
While it can be frustrating having to deal with Craigslist scams while using the site, if you know the common warning signs of a con, like a Craigslist check scam or Craigslist email scam, you can safely navigate around them and get on with your business finding real buyers for your stuff. As long as you pay attention to the details of each transaction and stay aware of the signs that alert you to possible scams, you should be fine.