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.
About Jen Talley
Jen Tally is a freelance writer, editor and librarian.
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