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Top-10 Craigslist Scams

 By Hector Cisneros

Image courtesy Pixabay
I’m old enough that I can still remember when classified ads were printed in newspapers. Then in 1995 a website called Craigslist was launched in San Francisco that provided free classified advertising.  Since that time, Craigslist has grown to cover the entire US plus seventy foreign countries.  It’s also begun charging for some of the classified ads that were once free.  During the past 26 years, Craigslist has had to deal with publicity over several highly publicized crimes that made the front pages of the same newspapers the portal was trying to supplant. To date Craigslist has been linked to everything from solicitation and rape to robbery and murder.  While the website is still the tenth most trafficked site in the US, before you post or respond to your next classified ad there, you need to understand how criminals can use the site to do you harm.  Below is my list of top-10 Craigslist scams and how to avoid being victimized.      

      1.      Don’t trust the Craigslist Phishermen. The next time you peruse Craigslist looking for a bargain, note whether or not the seller posts a phone number.  If the ad only allows you to respond via email, chances are you’re being phished.  Especially if the ad features an item that is listed at a price way below wholesale.  It’s not uncommon for cybercriminals to post fake ads to collect email addresses that they later use for their own nefarious purposes or sell on the dark web.  The same holds true if you post an ad.  Make sure you let interested buyers know that they should call you if interested.  I even put in bold letters the following on any Craigslist ad I post: IF INTERESTED CALL ME.  ALL TEXT AND EMAIL RESPONSES WILL BE REGARDED AS SPAM.

2.      When is PayPal anything but your pal? When the seller will only pay you via PayPal.  If you’re selling the item locally, why would anyone need to use PayPal to seal the deal? What you may receive is an initial payment only to later have the payment rescinded by PayPal.  My policy on all Craigslist transactions is Cash & Carry Only.      

      3.      The age verification scam. – Demanding age verification on Craigslist was one of the more popular scams until the portal was forced to remove personal ads in 2018 due to new legislation.  However, that doesn’t mean that the scam scrammed.  It’s still being used to phish for personal and financial information by unscrupulous sellers.  The way the scam works is you’ll be sent a link to a site with a name like craigslistverify where you’ll be asked to enter personal information or even a credit card number.  Instead of verifying your age or ability to pay, what the cybercriminals are looking to do is glom enough personal and financial information to rob you blind.

      4.      Check the check or pay the price. This is a variation on the PayPal payment scam with a twist.  The Craigslist Check Scam works like this:  You place an ad for something expensive like collectibles, electronics or antiques.  Somebody contacts you via email to let you know they want to buy the item.  Since the price is high, they offer to send you a cashier’s check or a certified check for payment.  When you deposit their check, it initially clears the bank.  You’ll no doubt ship the item to the buyer only to be contacted by the bank a week later to let you know that the check was bogus.  You’ve been had!

 

Image courtesy Pixabay
5.      Car Cons Galore – If you buy or sell a car on Craigslist, you should be aware that there are several ways to scam you.  Sellers have been conned out of their vehicles by accepting fake cashier’s checks.  Buyers have been duped into wiring a down payment or deposit to a nonexistent “escrow account.”  The keys to watch for are cars that are priced way below blue book value, as well as buyers or sellers who are reluctant to meet you in person.  Having sold numerous used cars over the years on Craigslist, the best advice I can give you is to always meet with a buyer eyeball to eyeball and only accept cash  payments.

      6.      The eBay Seller’s Scam – You find an item you’re interested in on Craigslist.  After contacting the seller, you’re directed to complete the transaction by visiting the seller’s listing on eBay.  You’ll usually receive the notice via a text or email purportedly from eBay letting you know how to process payment and reassuring you that the transaction is protected by eBay.  It isn’t.  Fall for this tactic and you could be out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for merchandise, a car or a boat that doesn’t exist.

7.      The Phony Express – Anytime a buyer or seller tries to talk you into mailing an item you have for sale on Craigslist or letting them mail you an item they have for sale, your BS alarm should start ringing loud and clear.  Take or make a payment from a bogus buyer or seller and you’ll learn who put the con in economy.

8.      Don’t be victimized.  To date, Craigslist has been implicated in multiple murders and rapes where sellers were lured to their doom.  There have also been numerous examples of thugs, thieves and murderers placing fake ads that were used to entice victims to meet them someplace out of the way.  Anytime you buy or sell anything on Craigslist, you should meet with the other party in a public place.  If that isn’t possible due to the size of the item, have someone accompany you to the location and do an online search of the address, phone number and name of the other party before you walk into an ambush.

9.      No job is worth risking your life.  Another dangerous game played on Craigslist is offering jobs or seeking models or spokespeople.  While the job could be legitimate, it could also be a ruse that could result in rape, robbery or human trafficking.  Before you show up for the worst interview of your life, make sure the name, address, and phone number of those doing the hiring is legitimate.

      10.  Vacation Rental Scam – You’re looking to take your family on a well-deserved vacation.  You see an ad on Craigslist that features photos of a beautiful fully furnished vacation home.  You contact the seller and learn that he or she is out of the area on business.  However, you’re told he or she can send you the lease online.  All you have to do to secure the rental is sign the lease and wire them a deposit.  What could be easier?  The problem is they don’t own the property, or it only exists in cyberspace.

      No matter how young or old you are, you need to realize there are cybercriminals who are looking to take advantage of you.  The only way to take a byte out of cybercrime is not to play the game by the crooks rules.

Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  

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