Don't Get Scammed on Craigslist (watch out for Schmeckpepers)

Category: Shopping

Craigslist is a free online classified ads service that's been around since 1995. It's a popular way to buy, sell, and trade goods or services locally. It's also used as a dating service, a job-hunting and recruiting tool, and much more. Lots of people use it every day for legitimate transactions, but if you're not careful, you could end up getting scammed by a Schmeckpeper. What's a Schmeckpeper? Read on for the answer, and learn about some Craigslist traps to avoid...

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 all scams. And of course it can't catch the creeps and crooks who respond to the legitimate ads.

The number one thing you can do to protect yourself is "deal locally with people you can meet in person." That advice comes from 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. By dealing face to face, you will avoid 99% of scam attempts.

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.

Craigslist Scams

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

I posted several items for sale on Craigslist. And 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:

"i would have love to come and see it, but my scheduled is very tight. I will mail out yor payment once you provide your full name, phone number and addresse. I can only pay via money order as am on a business trip now, pls let me know where to send your payment to because i wouldn't want to lose it to some else. I don't mind adding ($50) dollars so you can keep it in my favor. i will appreciate if you can get the ad off craigslist so i can be sure you are keeping it in my favor. Please let me know as soon as you receive it so i can start making arrangement for the pick-up."

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 another 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! They show up and find the home or apartment is already occupied, and the scammer is long gone.

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.

If a buyer offers to pay MORE than the asking price, run away fast. But likewise, if a seller is offering a price that's way too LOW, that's another big red flag. I've seen scams on Craisglist, Facebook Marketplace, and Nextdoor in which a car is offered for sale at a price that's just ridiculously low. The seller may claim they're being deployed for military service, or the car belonged to their ex-husband and they just want to get rid of it. THey'll make up some reason why you can't see the car in person, and try to persuade you to send a money order. But these cars do not exist.

Be wary also of concert or event tickets sold on Craigslist. It's too easy for scammers to offer fake tickets that look like the real thing. Instead go to Ticketmaster or StubHub where the tickets are validated and guaranteed to be legitimate.

Poor spelling, confused grammar, odd-sounding names, 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. 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, and do it in a public place where video cameras are present. Some police stations encourage people to use their facilities for this purpose. See SafeTrade Stations to find a safe trading location near you. There are almost 500 SafeTrade locations listed there, including one at North Pole, Alaska! A scammer is much less likely to participate in a fraudulent deal if they know they're being watched.

Finally, be aware that some scammers go so far as to send fake emails or voicemails purporting to be from Craigslist. The message may say that Craigslist has approved the transaction as safe, and mention a buyer’s protection service. If you see something like this, it's a big red flag that a scam is in the works.

Have you been scammed on Craigslist, or another local online marketplace? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Don't Get Scammed on Craigslist (watch out for Schmeckpepers)"

Posted by:

01 Aug 2022

Some years ago our son was selling a 50cc scooter on Ebay. He got a bid of the full price quite quickly which was encouraging.

What was less than good was when we saw the bidder's name - Piet Zahut. (If you don't get it at first, try saying it ...)

From memory I think he lived somewhere like Domino's House. That sale didn't go ahead!

Posted by:

01 Aug 2022

Tell people how the phone scam works. They say they want your tel # and then send them the code from Google to "prove you're real". This is happening sop frequently. The fact so many are doing it suggests it works on many fiolk.

Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
01 Aug 2022

To have some recourse if the goods you ordered do not turn up, or are not as described, ALWAYS use a credit card of Paypal; if the latter, and whatever the seller advises "to save on the fees", NEVER use Paypal's "Family and Friends" no-fee facility, as this option removes any possibility of recovering the money you sent....

Posted by:

01 Aug 2022

Salutations to all. I almost got screwed once until I asked money from the so called buyer and told him that the item should leave my place only as soon as his money appears in my bank account. Never heard from him again until last week when I recognized the phrasing from the same assumed guy with a different name who was trying to take me again for a ride on the same item that was not even relisted on CraigList.

Posted by:

01 Aug 2022

Got scammed once on Twitter from what I was sure was a legitimate source. Wasn't. Got my money bank from my bank, USAA, tracked down the source of the IP for that guy's webpage and got it taken down as fraudulent. Sure he's still out there somewhere though. Best bet, use only sources you absolutely know are reliable. Never even visited Craig's list, have only looked at eBay but never bought anything there.

Posted by:

01 Aug 2022

When I was looking for a house for rent, I called and talked to the “owner” and gave me the address of “his” property to go check it out before he’ll send me the keys. During the conversation he told me that right after I see the property to send him the money via a cash app and then he will fedex the keys right away. He explained that since he was on a “business trip” he could not show it to me personally. I said ok. We went by the property to check it out ….and behold there were other people already moving in. They told us that they just had barely rented the property one day ago from the real owner. When we got back to the apartment the “so called owner” had the audacity to call me and asked if we like the property ….needless to said I started calling him every bad word and adjective that I could think of …..

Posted by:

Stukahna Sandbahr
01 Aug 2022

"Poor spelling, confused grammar...." That's almost EVERYONE!

Posted by:

01 Aug 2022

Also, never, ever, agree to meet the buyer in an unfamiliar neighborhood or at nighttime. Agree to meet during normal daytime business hours in the lobby of the local police station, or even in the lobby of your bank. A legitimate buyer will not object to this. In fact, a legitimate buyer may even suggest this first as they will be probably be carrying cash for the purchase and will also want to feel safe.

Posted by:

02 Aug 2022

Was looking for a motorhome and saw one that even at first seemed to cheap anyway I contacted the seller and was told the usual story in the army have mech report etc asked to see it and was told it was in queensland and he would ship it to me said I wanted to see it to cut a long story short I kept him going for a long while

Posted by:

02 Aug 2022

I ordered a portable AC supposedly from Blaux. I was charged $98.00 and received a little plug in electric fan which was worth $9.98. They didn't answer calls. I was put on hold for 30 minutes and never answered. I tried many times to reach someone. When I emailed my complaints, I'd get an email reply they were "sending the AC" or that I had already received the "portable" AC. Then I started getting bombarded by advertisements on my android until I finally got another phone. What was sent to me was not as advertised. I got scammed.

Posted by:

Jo L. Will
20 Aug 2022

I don't understand the angle of this scam, but I've had it happen twice recently. The seller texts me back questioning whether I'm "real", and can he text me a code to send back (just like normal two factor authentication). Once I receive and send back the number, I never hear anything else back. But very soon I get an email alert from Google Voice that I my number has been reassigned. I can then go back in and reinstate it however. Perhaps the scammer doesn't know I'm going to be notified. Lesson learned: refuse to text back any numbers received by unknown parites.

Posted by:

05 Sep 2022

Jo L. Will: The "seller" initiated the number switch w/Google, and is trying to trick you into giving them the code that *Google* sent you.

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