Craigslist was started as a way for people in San Francisco to help each other find jobs, second-hand items and apartments, and has grown into a worldwide marketplace that connects people. Most of the time, people can sell, buy, or find the job or apartment they have been looking for without any problems. But scammers do take advantage of the site to take people’s money, so keep an eye out for these common scams to stay safe.
Even off Craigslist, phishing and fraud online are more common than ever.
1. An out-of-towner offers to buy something from you, and they’ll send money once the items is in transit.
You put up an air conditioner or a lamp or a bike up on Craigslist, and oddly enough, people from the other side of the country reach out. It’s just what they wanted! Sure, it costs a ton to ship that bike from Mobile to Kalamazoo, but they will pay any costs incurred. Just ship it, and they’ll send a wire transfer for the full amount. Of course, they won’t send the wire transfer, or they will send you a fake wire transfer, or the check they have overnighted will bounce. The best way to avoid this scam is mark your listing “local inquiries only,” and make it clear that cash is the only currency you will accept. If you still get people from out of town asking about your item, give them a polite but firm no.
2. Tickets are fake or canceled
Sporting events, Broadway plays, the must-see exhibit at the museum — if a ticket is hot, someone will try to take advantage, and sell fake or canceled tickets. Airplane tickets at unbelievable prices will also show up on Craigslist. While there are many items you should absolutely steer clear of tickets on Craigslist. For event tickets, use official means or a secondary ticket market like StubHub or SeatGeek. To be extra safe, don’t post pictures of your tickets on social media, as scammers will try to grab the bar code, and use a credit card that has purchase protection to pay.
3. A job offer is not what it seems to be
You apply for a job that seems perfect but find out you need to make a small investment before you can get the job. Perhaps you need to pay a photographer before you can do the advertising shoot, or you need to buy a kit of items to sell. You do it, because it sounds like a good job. Regardless, the job contact disappears once the money is in their hands, and you are out money and a chance at a job. To stay safe, remember that no job should ask you to spend money to apply or get started.
4. The buyer “overpays” you
This particular scam can show up in every area of Craigslist. The basic idea is the buyer shows up with a check or money order that is for more than the agreed-upon price, but oh no, it was their last check. Or the bank where they got the money order is closed. Or it’s actually their mom’s checkbook, but she’s at work and can’t write a new check. Whatever the excuse is, they ask you to just give them cash back for their overage. However, the check or money order is no good, and you’re not just out of the item you were selling, but some cash, too. To avoid this, be clear before the buyer shows up that cash is the only payment that works. Be firm, and don’t buy any sob stories. No matter what anyone tells you, Craigslist is an online marketplace for people to connect, and nothing more. The site comes with no protections for its users. Remember that if something seems too good to be true, or it just doesn’t feel right in your gut, trust your instincts.