Scammed on Craigslist!

Category: Security

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.
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

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:

"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 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...

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Most recent comments on "Scammed on Craigslist!"

(See all 30 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

09 Apr 2011

I have also used CL to sell a few things. I have found out that no one wants to pay you what you are asking. I now list items for more than I really want.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2011

I have bought and sold alot of different items on Craigslist, evening selling out of state. As long as you are careful and attentive, you don't have any problems. Only crap I get is people responding to you with links to Crest teeth whitening items.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2011

I am a C/L regular and see it more like an Internet Flea Market. I have been using it for over 7 years. To date I have gotten 3-4 pets,3 houses for rent, 2 jobs, several dates, have used the rideshare to make a major move across country and bought and sold too many items to list...if I need to replace something I go to C/L first...If I have a clean out and have stuff to get rid..I try to sell it C/L first..and sometimes instead of donating I just put it on the curb and post a free ad. These are my rules... all the regular ones about grammer and money orders and wire transfers...but 1. I do not respond to an ad unless it has a LOCAL phone number and
2. What ever it is if it doesn't have a local number and the grammer isn't right I flag it.
3. I only meet in public parking Walmart...because I KNOW they have video in their parking lots.
4. I only accept and pay in cash.
5. I don't use my real name..I have a C/L "handle" and I use it for ALL C/L transactions.
6. I am realistic about the site..I know I'm not going to get rich off it but, I refuse to make anyone else rich either.
7. Yes, I cruise the singles ads but more nowadays for laughs...but if I see someoe that seems interesting I look in the other sectios to see if they are posting there..and I Google their name before a meet (especially looking for Photos because if there is a mugshot on the web Google will show it)...and only meet in a public place of course.
8. Pictures sell stuff..learn how to use the system or accept the 1 million silly questions you will get. Pictures-take them, post them, sell your stuff and delete your ad.
9. This is CRUICIAL...always follow your gut instinct..if you don't feel 100% sure about a C/L deal then don't do it.
There's more I'm sure but I have forgotten them this is second nature to me now..
Maybe some day I will write about C/L etiquette, flagging and the pet section.
Hope this helps

Posted by:

Calvin Preece
13 Apr 2011

I have used CL to purchase a number of items from something as small as a smart cell phone to as large as a nice Mercedes-Benz. I have also sold two autos using the service. It is important to be aware of possible scams, of course. Only meet people who respond to you in public places. Starbucks is a great meeting place since there is one everywhere. Always meet people half-way or less as far as distance you travel to make a sell or a buy. Be willing to negotiate but be sure to give and get at a fair price.

Posted by:

Mark Jacobs
13 Apr 2011

This can also happen on E-Bay. I sold a laptop o E-Bay and before the end of the auction I received several offers to buy it. Most of them could be traced to African IPs and all were written in "Africanized" English. Most offered more than what I even paid for the computer new 4 years before. I responded to a few of these with profanity laced emails. Bottom line: don't bypass Ebay's auction process for a quick buck or you'll end up losing some bucks quick.

Posted by:

Glenn P.
13 Apr 2011

Bob, you wrote:

"...Beware of any seller who requests personal financial information such as a bank account number, credit card number, or PayPal E-Mail address..."

I beg  your pardon? PayPal E-Mail address? PayPal is one of the safest  ways of paying for things on the Internet; if I'm not allowed to specify PayPal for payment for something on Craigslist, precisely what method of payment DO  you suggest? Or are you so anti-CL that you suggest avoidng Craigslist altogether? If that is your true agenda, you should be upfront and say so!

EDITOR'S NOTE: If I had an anti-CL agenda, I would say so. But since I mentioned in the article that I recently used CL myself, I think it should be clear that I don't. My suggestion? Do as CL recommends: "DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON" and "NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)"


Posted by:

13 Apr 2011

I have sold and bought on Craigslist and was satisfied with the end result. I have received all the above scams when I was selling and I just deleted them.
Another quick tip off is if the exact entire description from your ad description line is in the email body, it is probably a scam. I actually put a real detail in the description line that any real person would never include in an email and use that as a scam guide so to speak.
However as Bob & others stated:
If it it seems to good to be true - you're right!
There is no real reason to watch a video - don't!

Posted by:

13 Apr 2011

I've been buying and selling on Craigslist for about 5 years, and while I've had a few scammers try and nick me, non has ever been successful.

If I want to purchase something from far away, I ask a local friend to act as a go between, and if I don't have a friend in the area, I ask if the seller is willing to drop off the item at a (fake) friends home (I only give the town name). If they are willing then I consider the seller safe and send him a check.

I never give out credit card nor personal info. Not even to legitimate businesses on the Internet. I just don't trust the Internet system. And I certainly don't trust Paypal. Had all sorts of problems getting my money from them.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2011

If I have securty software installed (and up to date), why would clikcing on a link result in "some nasty virus that will wreak havoc on your computer."?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Even an "up to date" anti-virus program might not know about ALL viruses, especially new variants.

Posted by:

Debra Scarborough
13 Apr 2011

Mantra: if it sounds too godd to be true, it is! Spouse looking for tractor found a $14K unit going for $3K. Called seller, who was in CA, selling his deceased father's tractor, in NY. Would send "papers" and have tractor shipped. Yea, right. Why was he posting on a York, PA CL? STGTBT!!
Have tried to sell stuff on CL. Received the usual scam offers and inquries from sort-of-interested folks who didn't follow through. Can't complain too much though, as it is a free service. Just remember, buyer/seller beware.

Posted by:

Mark Madere
13 Apr 2011

I've sold a lot of stuff on CL without a problem over the years. However, a clarinet I tried selling got a high amount of scam hits. I actually got fake checks from THREE different scam artists. Prompted me to call the local news station to do a story to warn others to avoid being ripped-off:

Posted by:

13 Apr 2011

Another thing to watch out for is anybody who replies to your listing with a simple "is it still available" or some other generic statement with either no mention of the actual item or the item name is typed PRECISELY like you listing title. More often than not it's somebody phishing for your real email address when you reply to them. I don't respond to anybody that doesn't somehow mention the item in their own words. I've seen more email phishing attempts than scamming attempts in my experience, although I did have one guy ask me to ship something that would have cost less to buy new than to have the item shipped...nice try!

Posted by:

Oliver Joy
14 Apr 2011

I've sold many items on C/L and never had any problem meeting people at my place and showing the item. They alsmost always buy it, don't dicker and bring cash. I've found it great.
I have had a couple of scammy offers from people who will pay more than I ask, have weird stories, want me to send the item,want my Paypal address, etc.... but they are obvious and I just delete them or send them weird answers. Overall I love C/L; it's far more profitable to use than eBay.

Posted by:

16 Apr 2011

I have had the same experience on Facebook Marketplace.

Posted by:

20 Apr 2011

people hijack ebay accounts all the time.
Just because ebay verifies sellers doesn't mean you can't get scammed. It just makes it more difficult for scammers who aren't that good. The real way to prevent getting scammed is to educate yourself. People have been complaining for years that craigslist has no security...yet it's still managed to grow incredibly. What happens when you go to a flea market and bring something home that you realize it's not what the seller said it was? Do you blame the market organizers for not verifying the quality of the item? Let's bring back an ancient tradition called "personal responsibility"

Posted by:

11 May 2011

It is surprising how many scams there are on Craigslist and the actions taken by Craigslist simply don't work. I placed an ad on Craigslist and couldn't see it. After being told by a member of their staff that the reason my ad couldn't be seen is because had too much HTML that was causing it to be blocked by their spam filters (They actually have spam filters?) even though my ad had no HTML, I looked to the Internet for an answer. What I found is that my ad was probably what people call ghosted. It doesn't show up in listings but if you click the link to edit in your email, you can see your ad but not the general public. Even though I had a legitimate ad, Craigslist thought otherwise and all you have to do to get ghosted is have someone click the link to report your ad and some competitors will do this to get your ad ghosted in order to eliminate their competition. If you look at it, almost every site can have someone fraudulently create an ad even with a form of verification ID. I do have to say that Craigslist is the worst designed website I've seen and I'm surprised it has become so popular. I could probably create a better site than Craigslist with better search features and more effective ways to eliminate spam.

Posted by:

01 Aug 2011

I was recently contacted about an item for sale, and was incredibly optimistic. Even though the guy said he would have to mail me the money order. Then I got this message:
"I urgently have to bring something to your notice. I just found out that my Assistant overpaid you. The payment meant for another transaction was made out in your name and sent to you. However I want to believe I wont have a problem with you on this. Once you receive the payment, Please proceed to the bank and cash the payment, deduct
your money and send back the balance to me via western union. So I can proceed with arrangement for pick-up. Once more, I hope I can fully trust you with this? I will await your response on this so my mind can be at rest."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Classic scam, as mentioned in the article.

Posted by:

13 Oct 2011

I recently sold an item on craiglist, the guy wanted to pay through paypal, i got a pretty official looking email saying i just need to send the item and give them a tracking number and the money will be forwarded. Well i just shipped it out today, no money, i talked to paypal and low and behold it was a nigerian scammer! I am 17 and am currently going to fire school and am DESPERATE for money and let excitement get the best of me. Please let me know if theres anything i can do to get my money/ipod.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Unfortunately, there's little or nothing you can do. You might try contacting the police in the town where you shipped the item, to let them know that the recipient in involved in an Internet scam.

Posted by:

06 Apr 2012

Heads up on con artists and their favorite "haunts" is information that needs to be everywhere - and often. Hard to believe how many readers seemed to take personal offense to the publishing of this information. (Person 1: "Be careful wading crossing Gator River...". Person 2: "Hey I've caught fish from that river! How dare you insult that river when only 1 in 20 people wading across it are killed by Alligators?!"

Posted by:

07 Jun 2013

I use Craig's List frequently. It's a wonderful free service. But you have to think about it like you would (in the old days) of responding to a classified ad in the local newspaper.
Of course, they don't verify everyone. Neither did the newspaper ads.

I use it to get renters for my rental house,& sell furniture, household goods, etc.
I used it to buy my Honda, and to sell my older car.
And when you are hunting for a new dining room table or a couch - CL saves you endless hours since you can see the item (posted pics) without having to drive across town to look at it.

I also agree with other posters to ALWAYS deal locally. Never take checks or money orders.
And I always ask for a persons phone number before meeting them.
I live in a smaller city and have never had a problem with someone coming to my home. But I would probably do it differently if I lived in a larger place.

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