Consumer Protection

8 Signs You’re Being Scammed on Craigslist


If you’ve used Craigslist, odds are someone has tried to scam you. The site is appealing to scammers for the same reasons most people like it: the ads are free, it’s easy to post, and there’s something for everyone, from job ads to used cars to free pets. You might think you would never fall for a Craigslist scam, but with an increasing number of reported frauds via the site, it’s clear many people are being taken in. As certain types of fraud become public knowledge, others are developed to take their place. It’s buyer – and seller – beware.

1. Grammar and spelling

This isn’t a guaranteed tip-off, since plenty of people simply have atrocious written language skills. However, if you get replies to your “for sale” ad with stilted or nonsensical phrasing and frequent misspellings, it’s a clue to dig deeper.

2. Buyer is not local

Craigslist recommends dealing only with local buyers and sellers for good reason. Anyone claiming to be interested in buying your item from another location and having you ship it to them is likely trying to run a scam. Sellers on Craigslist have been taken in by buyers who send fake checks for more money than the selling price, then ask the seller to wire them the excess amount.

3. Cashier’s checks, money orders, and wire transfers

As noted above, scammers will often try to purchase goods with fake cashier’s checks or money orders. If the buyer isn’t local, or won’t meet you in person with cash in hand, take a pass on the deal.

4. Too good to be true

Your mom used to tell you that if something seemed too good to be true, it probably was. This should be a guiding principle for anyone using Craigslist. That three-year-old BMW for $4000? No. The seller might offer you a sob story about divorce, death, or a son in the military, but most likely they are running a scam.

5. Free stuff

People get rid of their things through Craigslist all the time, so you can definitely score lots of free stuff. However, you should be suspicious of ads that state everything at a certain address is free.There have been several reported incidents of malicious pranksters that put up false “everything is free” ads saying that the owner of a home has to leave suddenly, and that their belongings are free for the taking. Upon returning home, the unfortunate victim finds their belongings cleaned out.

6. Cheap rentals

In areas of the country with tight real estate markets such as New York City, ads for cheap rentals have cost people thousands. Scammers copy pictures and descriptions from real estate sites and post them on Craigslist with requests for an application fee to hold the property.  Don’t send deposits or application fees without meeting the rental agent and seeing the property in person.

7. Lots of money for a little work

No one is going to pay you thousands of dollars a month to work at home. Seriously. It’s likely a scam to get your personal and financial information. A recent variation on the scam directs job seekers to a site to retrieve their credit score, which a reputable employer just isn’t going to do. Red flags should go up if the job title is vague, the wage generous, and no experience is required.

8. Purchase protection

Craigslist doesn’t officially sanction any business dealings on the site and offers no kind of invoice or purchase protection. If you email someone about an item and receive any replying claiming to be from Craigslist verifying your purchase, it’s a scam.

Use your common sense when buying or selling on Craigslist. If it seems suspicious, it probably is. Better to lose a sale than lose a bunch of money, your identity, and your faith in humanity.


  1. 1

    almost got scammed by some person trying to buy our two pool tables. was ready to roll with it and then thought better of it. Most of these comments and suggestions were perfect. Thank you all

  2. 2

    I’m selling a car on craigslist. A women text me and loves the car and wanted me to take it down off of the site to make sure I don’t sell to another person. She will send the total and the shipping costs. I have repeatedly text her for info for total perpouses and shippers name etc.. No return. Just keeps texting me with ” need your correct address” I will not let that car go anywhere without cash in hand ! Beware all! I can’t wait to tell you all how this plays out.

  3. 3

    Is it suspicious if they dont give you the exact adress?

  4. 4

    what company specifically? because i’m suspecting….

  5. 5

    I have listed an item on Craigslist in Canada, and somebody from US has emailed me that he is willing to pay by PayPal or sending me a check, if I would be able to ship the item to USA.
    the first email he sent to me, he only asked me if I would be able to ship it to US. I replied that I will look into it, and I asked him how would make a payment and how about shipping costs? He emailed back to me saying that he either can pay by PayPal or send me a check and he has been very specific about my item and even asking some other questions. So obviously I will not accept a check and I won’t provide any mailing information to him. However, he has provided me all his info (full name, full address, phone number along with the email) and every thing looks fine i.e. the name is normal, the address exists, and etc. but I’m wondering how is he willing to pay for something that he has not seen and it costs around $1,000 for him. I do not have a PayPal account and I have not ever used it before, so I really do not know how does it work, and what are the risks. I can not decide if he is a fake buyer or no.

  6. 6

    Please watch out for those scams, especially in the healthcare field.

  7. 7

    Your information was very helpful considering a guy is trying to purchase my puppy from Tennessee and i live in California, He wants to send a check to me then his movers will pick up the puppy once the check clears…. HUH…. Sounds a little fishy to me, What about you guys?

  8. 8

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  9. 9

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  13. 17

    Also those ads for jobs or gigs where the reply asks you via an internet link to either verify your cell number OR to fill in information with respect to a credit report.
    This happens often. Not sure about what the cell phone number link does but I do know that the credit report link is to get you to subscribe to a credit monitoring bureau.

  14. 18

    Be suspicious if the name in the email address and the name in the email body don’t match up. We’re trying to sell some furniture, and have got a crapload of those.

    People also don’t have “pick up agents” willing to drive from Massachusetts to Toronto, Ontario, for your old desk.

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