How NOT to Get Scammed on Craigslist
Craigslist, the free online classified ads service, is 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 scammed by someone you meet through one of these online marketplaces. Here are some 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 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. By dealing only 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.
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.
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. 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.
Have you been scammed on Craigslist, or another local online marketplace? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 17 Feb 2020
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How NOT to Get Scammed on Craigslist (Posted: 17 Feb 2020)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved