Craigslist Scams: The Most Common Scams on Craigslist

Craigslist ScamsIf you've ever looked for a place to rent, wanted to buy a used car, piece of furniture, or appliance, or were on a job hunt you may have checked out the Craigslist in your area to see your options. The site can be a great resource for finding affordably priced things, part-time jobs and full-time jobs, or a decent used car. It can also be a valuable and entertaining tool when procrastinating.

Though Craigslist can be a great online market, it also has a dark side and scammers lurk on the site looking for unsuspecting victims. Among the different types of scams that exist on Craigslist there are some that are more common than others.

Common Craigslist Scams

The "Oops, I paid too much!" Scam - This scam can happen with housing rentals, car purchases and just about any other deal on Craigslist as long as money is involved and checks, or money orders, are accepted as a form of payment. A scammer will agree to a lease or to purchase something, but will then accidentally write a check for too much money. They will say that they don't have another check on them to re-write it, could the seller give them a check or cash for the difference. After closing the deal the seller will go to cash in the check or money order, and it will bounce or be fraudulent.

The "Amazing apartment, amazing price" Scam - A scammer will publish photos of an amazing apartment at an amazing price, it's obvious that demand will be high. Those looking for a place to rent won't want to miss out on this opportunity, to reserve it they should immediately send a deposit. The scamming landlord will then disappear, never to hand over the keys of the too-good-to-be-true apartment. These types of scams typically target people who are in the process of relocating and are unable to visit an apartment beforehand.

The "Phony event tickets" Scam - A scammer will offer tickets to a sold-out upcoming show or sporting event. Similar to a scalper, not every seller is selling real, authentic tickets. The trusting buyer purchases the tickets then goes to the event only to find out that the tickets are fakes.

The "Secure payment method" Scam - This scam involves the scammer suggesting that they pay for something in a secured method of payment, like Venmo or PayPal. With Venmo you'll get an instant notification when another user sends you money, but this doesn't mean that the money is actually in your account. Instead the transaction is being processed and then it is canceled for insufficient funds once the purchased item has already been given by the seller. Victims find themselves without recourse as Venmo does not allow its platform to be used for merchant sales, which means Craigslist deals. They are told to contact the buyer, who is by then long gone. PayPal scams take a bit more creativity on the scammer's part. They will often state that they've paid and sense a false email pretending to be PayPal stating that your account has been credited.

These are just a few of the many different scam variations that exist on Craigslist. In addition to these financial scams there is always the possibility of a physical attack when making a deal in person. There have been reports of both buyers and sellers falling victim to armed robbery, sexual assault, and even murder. As of 2015, there had been 86 murders in the U.S. linked to Craigslist.

How to protect yourself from criminals on Craigslist

It's always best to proceed with caution with someone you meet on Craigslist, the same as you would with any stranger you met off of the street. You can take a few more precautions in order to protect yourself including:

  • Always meet a buyer or seller in person in a public place, ask a friend to come along with you if you feel uncomfortable.
  • Deal only with local sellers and buyers.
  • Don't accept checks, money orders, or online forms of payment, such as Venmo or escrow companies. It's best to handle the transaction in cash. Remember if you cash a check that bounces, you will be held accountable and have to pay fees.
  • Don't use wire transfer services to pay sellers.
  • Don't share personal or financial information.
  • Don't buy, rent or sell to a third party. Deals should only be made between two Craigslist users.
  • Don't buy or rent anything without seeing it first.

For more information on how to protect yourself from scams Craigslist and PayPal offer very helpful resources and instructions on how to report suspected fraud. As an extra precaution you can download a reverse phone lookup app, like CallerSmart, and run a potential buyer or seller's phone number before meeting them. If you don't have an iPhone you can still run a reverse phone number look up and see if there is any suspicious behavior associated with the number on our website. After the deal has gone through you can leave your feedback depending on your experience to help others.