How Can You Stay Safe on Craigslist? Learn How to Spot These 6 Major Craigslist Scams
Since this classified ad service started in 1995, it’s grown from postings in a single city (San Francisco), to across the entire U.S., to serving buyers and sellers in 70 countries.
Craigslist, which the company stylizes as “craigslist” has become the main place to go for buying and selling. It’s a community classified service where you can do everything from buying a used dining room set to finding a plumber to fix your sink.
Unfortunately, all that exchange of money for goods and services brings con artists and multiple Craigslist scams. People have lost thousands of dollars in Craigslist cashier’s check scams and Craigslist PayPal scams, and those are just two of many ways to get conned.
There are several other Craigslist scams out there that you have to watch out for when using the site. However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t buy and sell on Craigslist if you know the scammer warning signs for Craigslist fraud and how to avoid scams on Craigslist.
So, how do you know if you’re getting scammed on Craigslist? There are some telltale signs of each Craigslist buyer scam, and we’re going to tell you how to spot them and avoid them.
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.
AdvisoryHQ Reviews | Why Are There So Many Craigslist Scammers?
While most people use Craigslist to buy and sell their items, look for services, or find a job, unfortunately, scammers are there as well looking to make a quick buck.
Any site where monetary transactions take place online, like eBay and Craigslist, draws criminals trying to trick people out of their money. They run things like Craigslist car scams, the Craigslist certified check scam, Craigslist personals scams, and multiple others.
It’s much easier to fool someone over the internet where you’re not face-to-face, and these cybercriminals have honed their Craigslist scam texts and emails to gain your trust and get you to send them your money.
Then, once they get your cash, they disappear back into the dark corners of the internet.
Next, we’ll tell you which are the top 6 biggest Craigslist scams and how to avoid them. We’ll also let you know how to report a scam on Craigslist and tips like researching Craigslist scammer lists of known fraud email addresses.
Scam 1 | Craigslist PayPal Scam
In the Craigslist PayPal scam, the cyber crook is using the popularity and safety of PayPal payments to lure you in. But there are a number of ways they can try to steal your money with this PayPal Craigslist scam.
One common theme is that the fake buyer only wants to pay through PayPal, no other way. You’ll also tend to see the Craigslist PayPal scam being used on big-ticket items or electronics.
Craigslist PayPal Scam Scenarios:
- If you don’t already have a PayPal account, you’ll be sent a link to a fake site that spoofs PayPal, where they can get your personal bank or credit card information.
- After you invoice them, you’re sent a fake email that claims they’ve paid the money or that there is a problem and will have a link to click that takes you to a fake website to log in, and they steal your PayPal login credentials.
- You receive the money in your account and ship the item, then later are alerted that the money was transferred from someone else’s account (not the buyer’s). And you have to provide a refund and are out the item you’ve sent.
Many people fall for the Craigslist PayPal scam because they believe the seller protection PayPal offers will keep them safe. However, it doesn’t apply for all types of transactions, such as those where an item is picked up in person and not shipped.
How to Avoid the Craigslist PayPal Scam
- Never click a link from a suspicious email
- Log into your PayPal account directly to see if funds are received
- Beware buyers that want to purchase without even seeing the item first
- Refuse to use PayPal and require another form, such as cash
- Check Craigslist scammer lists for the person’s email
Scam 2 | Craigslist Cashier’s Check Scam
In this next Craigslist scam, a payment seems to be okay at first but then isn’t. It’s typically called the Craigslist cashier’s check scam, the Craigslist certified check scam, or just Craigslist check scam, because it works with all three types of check payments.
Some warning signs are that the buyer won’t usually meet with you and will often say they are in the military or in the midst of moving. Another key element of the Craigslist cashier’s check scam is that they’ll also ask to overpay you to cover shipping expenses or something else.
Craigslist Cashier’s Check Scam | How it Plays Out:
- You’re contacted about the item you’re selling and the buyer asks to pay you extra for shipping, giving an excuse as to why they can’t pick up the item in person.
- You’ll receive what seems to be a real cashier’s check, certified check, or personal check in the mail as promised.
- Once the check clears your bank (which at first it usually will), they’ll ask you to transfer those excess funds they paid to their shipper for them. (Note, it will be a bogus shipping company with the money coming directly to them.)
- In roughly a week or two, you’ll receive a notice from your bank that the check you received was counterfeit and the money will be deducted from your bank account. You’ll be out any money you paid to their shipper, plus the item if you’ve already mailed it out.
One factor that draws people into the Craigslist cashier’s check scam is that sometimes the buyer will offer to pay you more for the item than you’re asking, in addition to the extra for you to pay their “shipper.”
People that take the bait often get an initial false sense of security when their bank initially clears the check given in the Craigslist check scam. Once the check is run through their security protocols is when it’s found out to be fake.
How to Avoid the Craigslist Certified Check Scam
- Don’t accept extra money that you’ll have to pay to a shipper or someone else
- Don’t deal with buyers that you can’t meet in person
- Never accept a check payment
- Require your item to be picked up in person
Scam 3 | Craigslist Car Scams
Both buyers and sellers can get caught up in Craigslist car scams. Used automobiles are a popular item on Craigslist, but since they also tend to be a higher priced item, they draw Craigslist fraud criminals.
Lower than usual prices are often used to attract car buyers in these Craigslist scams since it’s hard to pass up a great deal. Buyers will run into a similar scenario as the Craigslist cashier’s check scam, where they’re paid extra money that has to be wired to someone else.
Craigslist Car Scam Scenarios:
- A car buyer will be told where to pick up a car, such as a shipping yard, and asked to send a portion of money ahead for insurance. When they try to retrieve the vehicle, they’ll find out there is none, and it was a Craigslist fraud.
- A car seller will be given a certified or cashier’s check with extra money that has to be wired somewhere (just like in the Craigslist check scam). The check will clear initially until the bank finds out it’s fraudulent, then the money will be deducted from your account.
- A car buyer will be asked to send the money to an escrow agent with promises that they can get it back if they want to cancel the transaction. But in this Craigslist scam, the “escrow agent” is actually the seller themselves and they steal your money without sending any vehicle.
How do you know if you’re getting scammed on Craigslist with a fake auto buyer or seller? There are similar red flags as the other Craigslist scams have, such as someone that can’t meet you in person, that offers way too low a price, or that wants to pay you extra money.
How to Avoid Craigslist Car Scams
- Don’t use a seller’s escrow agent
- Refuse to pay money down as “insurance”
- Beware of cars priced much lower than they should be
- Require seeing the car in person before you’ll consider buying it
Scam 4 | Craigslist eBay Scam
In the Craigslist eBay scam, the eBay Buyer Protection Program is used as a way to give you a false sense of security before sending money. It’s often used with cars, but can also be used for other high-ticket items.
If you’re wondering why you’d be asked to purchase on eBay instead of where the sale originated, that’s a good question. And the reality is that you’re not really purchasing through eBay and the sale isn’t covered under their Buyer Protection Program at all.
Craigslist eBay Scam | How it Plays Out:
- You find a car on Craigslist that looks like an excellent deal for the money. After you contact the seller, you’re linked to the same listing on eBay and told you’ll be given 5 days at no risk to drive the car and see if you like it and be covered with the eBay Motors Buyer Protection Program.
- You’ll be sent a Craigslist scam text or email that looks to be from eBay (but it won’t be) confirming the purchase is covered and legitimate.
- Once you pay the seller for the item, it will never be delivered to you and you’ll also find out that eBay’s protection doesn’t apply to the fraudulent transaction.
One red flag that often comes along with the Craigslist eBay scam is a buyer that has a desperate reason for selling the vehicle so cheap, such as a death in the family or a divorce. They may also use the “I’m in the military” scam and say they’ve been stationed out of state or out of the country.
How to Avoid the eBay Craigslist Scam
- Know that eBay doesn’t have anything to do with Craigslist sales
- Refuse to pay any money until you see the vehicle or other items in person
- Don’t deal with sellers that can’t meet you in person
Scam 5 | Craigslist Verification Scam
When purchasing certain items, especially if they’re of an adult nature, you may not think twice about being asked to verify your age. And that’s what scammers that run a Craigslist verification scam are counting on.
Asking for age verification was also one of the popular Craigslist personals scams until they pulled their personal ads from the site in early 2018 due to new regulations passed by Congress.
Craigslist Verification Scam | How it Plays Out:
- When you show interest in purchasing a particular item, you’re sent a scam email that looks to be legitimately asking you to follow the link to a site with a name like craigslistsafe or a similar name designed to look legit.
- You’re asked to enter your credit card details or other personal information, like SSN, on the site and it states that the information is used for age verification purposes only.
- The “verification” link you received is a Craigslist email scam and the site you entered your details on was fake. Cybercrooks use your credit card info to steal money and other personal information for identity theft.
While this age verification used to be used often with Craigslist personals scams, it’s fast being switched to a Craigslist buyer scam for any items for sale on Craigslist where an age verification would make sense, which could be adult items, chainsaws, or weapons.
How to Avoid the Craigslist Verification Scam
- Never give a credit card for age verification
- Don’t trust links to sites for age verification, even if they use “Craigslist” in the name
- Do not give out your personal information on an unknown website
- Meet in person to purchase, you can show them your ID at that time
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Scam 6 | Craigslist Employment Scam
It’s unfortunate, but scammers do prey upon people looking for jobs using employment scams on Craigslist. There are several different scenarios, some use Craigslist email scams and some will send a Craigslist scam text offering a job with a big salary.
In these types of Craigslist scams, the criminal is counting on you being desperate for a great-looking employment opportunity, and that’s how they draw you in.
Craigslist Employment Scam Scenarios:
- You’re asked to sign up and pay for “training” as part of the requirement for being hired. This is just a way to get your money, there is no real job.
- You’re asked to enter your personal information, including SSN, into an online employment application or online background check website. This is a trick to get your information for identity theft purposes.
- The “employers” request your bank account information in order to do a direct deposit or you may also be asked to sign up for a special bank account in order to receive your payment. These are both designed to access the money you may have in your bank account.
There are a lot of legitimate jobs offered on Craigslist, but you do have to watch out for Craigslist scams too. So, how do you know if you’re getting scammed on Craigslist by someone offering a job? Here are some tips below.
How to Avoid Craigslist Employment Scams
- Thoroughly research companies posting jobs on Craigslist
- Check for a Craigslist fraud report on the company
- Never pay for training, legitimate employers won’t ask you for money
- Watch for telltale scammer signs of misspellings and improper grammar in postings
What Are Other Ways to Get Scammed on Craigslist?
Beyond these top 6 Craigslist scams, there are many others to watch out for. But all will have similar red flags, where something doesn’t seem quite right. Trust your instincts!
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
Wondering how to avoid scams on Craigslist? 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 actions. We’re going to tell you next how to report a scam on Craigslist.
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
AdvisoryHQ’s How to Avoid Scams on Craigslist Conclusion
Craigslist scams don’t have to catch you in their trap if you know the warning signs to watch out for. The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is” is a good mantra to follow when buying or selling on the site.
And sellers aren’t the only ones that have to watch out for crooks. Craigslist buyer scams are also used often to scam people out of their money.
Once you know the common red flags to look for, you can avoid many of these scams. Such as, overpayments of what’s owed using the Craigslist cashier’s check scam or a buyer that has an excuse for not being able to meet you in person.
Craigslist scammers will often use a “once in a lifetime” deal as the lure to get you to drop your guard. So, if you want to avoid scams on Craigslist, you have to stay vigilant about things like not giving out personal information online and requiring meeting in person for the transaction (we recommend somewhere safe, like a police department parking lot).
You can find some great local deals on Craigslist, so it’s not just full of scammers. If you know what to look for to avoid these common Craigslist scams, you can buy or sell what you need there and use the site as the local swap meet it was intended to be.
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