Scammed on Craigslist!
Craigslist, the free local classified ads service, is a popular way to buy, sell, and trade goods or services. It's also used as a dating service, a job-hunting and recruiting tool, and much more. But if you're not careful, you could end up scammed by someone you meet on Craigslist...
Be Aware of Common Craigslist Scams
Craigslist itself warns users that they're entirely on their own when it comes to vetting their trading partners. Craigslist makes no attempt to screen advertisers. Instead, it relies on "flagging" of unsavory listings by the user community. If a listing receives too many flags from other users, it is taken down automatically. But this self-policing does not catch many scams. And of course it can't catch the creeps and crooks who respond to the ads.
The number one thing you can do to protect yourself is "deal locally with people you can meet in person," advises the Craigslist FAQ about scams. If you send money or goods to someone far away, there is very little you can do if you get nothing in return.
Unlike eBay, Craigslist offers no verification of sellers' and buyers' identities; no "buyer protection" in case the goods are not delivered; no escrow service; and no guarantees of any transaction. It's 100% buyer beware. Craigslist advertisers who ask you to send money in advance via Western Union or bank wire transfer should be avoided, and flagged. There is no way to get your money back when you pay via these methods, and in most cases you will not get anything in return.
If you're selling on Craigslist, it may seem safe to accept cashier's checks or money orders through the mail. But counterfeit cashier's checks and money orders can come back to bite you weeks after your bank told you the funds had cleared. Sometimes it can cost you a lot more than the face amount of the check.
My Personal Craiglist Scam Story
Recently, I posted several items for sale on Craigslist. Within minutes, I started getting emails from people with strange sounding names, asking if the item was still available. One person's name was (I kid you not) "Schmeckpeper Ayuso". I responded to one person, and got this in reply:
Turns out the wording of this reply is almost identical to other messages commonly sent by overseas scammers. Here's how the scam often plays out:
One Craigslist seller received a check for $2,500 from a foreign buyer, instead of the $250 they had agreed upon. The buyer said there had been a "terrible mistake" made by her bookkeeper, and asked the seller to wire back the excess funds. She even told the seller to keep an extra $100 for the trouble. The check, of course, was counterfeit, and the seller would have been scammed out of $2150 if they had wired funds to the crook. I'm sure the same would have happened to me.
Beware of any seller who requests personal financial information such as a bank account number, credit card number, or Paypal email address. Identity theft is often one of the objects of Craigslist scams.
Likewise, if you are applying for a job listed on Craigslist, do not cooperate in any background or credit check until you have had a face-to-face interview and verified that the employer is legitimate. The information you provide to enable a background check may be used to steal your identity.
Housing rentals are a favorite Craigslist scam. It's amazing how many people hand over hundreds or thousands of dollars in deposits and rent without ever seeing the inside of a rental property. A lot of people have rented homes from scammers who didn't even have the right to rent the properties!
A friend of mine warned about a Craiglist scam where the "buyer" emails the seller a link to view a web page or watch a video "to make sure it's the item I want to buy." Don't click... or you'll wind up a victim of some nasty virus that will wreak havoc on your computer.
Poor spelling, confused grammar, and long rambling replies are a hallmark of Craigslist scammers. Beware of anyone who wants to pay with a money order or a check, even a certified check, as they can be easily forged. If they offer to pay MORE than the asking price, or ask for any personal details, run away fast. And if you're buying or selling something that costs a significant amount of money, always have a friend with you when meeting the other party.
Have you been scammed on Craigslist? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 6 Apr 2011
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