Tough times calls for drastic measures on both the end of the buyer and the seller. And apart from fishing for the best deals, people actually use Craigslist to post job ads, apply for jobs, look for apartments, sell used goods, and the list goes on. There are plenty of legitimate companies and good people who utilize the site on a regular basis. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of scammers out there and for as long as Craigslist has been in existence, so have people who learned its in’s and out’s in order to trick others into serious frauds and criminal activities.
If you’re cautious enough, you can dodge a sketchy situation early on. But if you’re an amateur Craigslist user, perhaps a bit naïve, or even just giving someone else the benefit of a doubt, you can end up robbed, harmed, imprisoned, and even worse – killed. We all remember the dark and heinous stories about the Craigslist killer from a decade back. It’s a shame that, while these tales have circulated for many years, people continue to fall victim to fraudulent activities. Here are the top fifteen Craigslist scams that people fall for – the ones that you’ll want to avoid.
15. Fake Rental Listings
You can almost always spot these out because they’re usually too good to be true. You know, the ones that are bigger houses in better parts of the city for less money, and allow both cats and dogs… oh, and section 8 too. But some of these ads aren’t so obvious. Some of the less obvious things to pay attention to are the photos, the email address, and the move-in date. If all you have is a Google maps view of the home, then it was most likely stolen from a scammer. Also, scammers usually don’t disguise their email address and will usually list it instead as something like firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if the move-in date was from last year, then it was probably an old ad being recycled in fake posts.
14. Fake Job Ads
These are probably the most popular scams that people fall for because they’re not always as easy to depict and also because people are usually in a more desperate situation when it comes to employment. But failing to be discerning can get you into a lot of trouble – the least of these being the solicitation of your personal information (phone, email, resume, etc.). However, if you follow the rabbit trail of a fake job ad long enough, you can also end up in a lot of legal trouble and out of money. If an employer makes you wire money or cash mysterious checks, chances are you’re dabbling in illegal activity.
13. Real Job Ads for Sketchy Gigs
I always raise an eyebrow whenever I see an ad that requires you to attach a photo along with your resume. You’ve probably seen these as well. You know, the ones where an elderly gentleman is seeking a live-in assistant who is preferably attractive. When you’re in a financial bind, you might not think much of a job that you would easily qualify for, but you have to be cautious about ads posted by people who have a criminal history and background. Unfortunately, Craigslist does not perform any background checks so it’s up to you to use your best discretion.
12. Broken Electronics for Sale
You don’t want to get scammed into buying expensive electronics that might not be functionally up to par, and definitely not worth the money if any at all. Unfortunately, there are many people out there on Craigslist who make their living out of scamming people with faulty gadgets and computers. And unfortunately, Craigslist is an “as-is” marketplace where no refunds are considered. Your best bet is bringing along a trusted friend or relative who is tech savvy and can give you the green light. Also, meet up at a local Starbucks where you can plug the product into an outlet and test its performance before jumping into a risky purchase.
11. Shady and Shitty Cars
If you don’t know much about cars and you desperately need one, you can quickly end up in an awful situation with a shitty piece of junk on your hands. No one wants to have a salvaged car on their hands that would cost them more to fix up than sell. So what do they do? Try to sell it asap. This is a pretty common way people get scammed via Craigslist. If you don’t check a car’s Carfax report or verify that it has a clean title, you might end up with a car that has been in some pretty rough accidents, a car that was stolen, or even worse, a car that might give up on the road and leave you fatally injured. And for all of these reasons, Craigslist is an extremely risky place to purchase a vehicle if you don’t know much about them.
10. Hiring Cheap & Unskilled Labor
I once hired a “photographer” on Craigslist to photograph my wedding… one of the worse decisions I’ve ever made in life. The photographer had a small portfolio of maybe five decent photos and for what he was charging, I thought I had won the lottery. However, he ended up being worth exactly what I paid for him or maybe even less. He showed up late for the wedding, sat and ate with the guests at the reception, and didn’t capture many of those wedding memories you’d want on camera. But that was a valuable lesson learned and now I know that cheap labor is also unskilled labor… and there’s a lot of that out there on Craigslist just waiting to trick you.
9. Free or Cheap Infested Furniture
When it comes to mattresses or sofas, I shudder at the thought that anyone would want to buy them used via Craigslist. Seriously, you don’t know what condition the piece of furniture is in or if it is infested with bed bugs, ticks, or fleas. It might look great on the outside and the price might be irresistible, but when you consider the fact that your health and quality of living is being compromised, it might actually be worth it to just spend a little bit more on something new. But I get it that some sofas are rare, vintage, or exclusive collectibles… if this is the case, be sure to have the item professionally steam cleaned.
8. Fake, Used, or Cancelled Tickets
Everyone frequently turns to Craigslist to find cheap tickets or discounts to local theme parks, attractions, concerts, and sports games. But this is also a big-time business for scammers who know exactly how to fabricate fake tickets or have no guilt whatsoever in selling you a used ticket. Unfortunately, there’s not really any sure-fire way to verify the authenticity of the tickets, which is why this is a risky transaction in general. In fact, the chances of being scammed are quite high, especially when you’ll never see this person again. The best way to buy tickets third-party is from someone you know or trust. Otherwise, you might end up burning your money instead.
7. Used Gift Cards
Gift cards are a lot easier to verify for authenticity these days… especially with websites where you can actually type in the number on the card to confirm how much money is actually on it. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to do this, and for this reason, it’s still one of the top scams people fall for on Craigslist. So before you purchase a gift card via a third party, always run a scan on the card on a balance checker site. These sites are pretty trust-worthy. Lastly, be sure that you’re not paying more for the card than what’s actually on it.
6. Escrow Service Fraud
Escrow frauds usually accompany big purchase items such as boats, cars, and RVs because the scammer wants to make the most money out of a single transaction. Usually, what happens is that you’re getting ready to make the purchase. Then suddenly, the other party requests that you use an escrow service to process the payment rather than cash, check, or PayPal. If you don’t know much about escrow services, this might look legitimate to you at first glance, especially because the website they suggest might also look like a real escrow site. Granted, there are real escrow service sites, but you’re better off avoiding these kinds of transactions in general.
5. Receiving MORE Money Than You Asked For
An overpayment on anything is usually a sure sign of a scam, especially when it’s not hard cash. No one willingly pays more money for an item than what is charged. If this is you, and you receive a pretty exciting check that makes you feel like you’ve struck gold, then you’re likely the subject of a scam that can actually land you in prison. Take that check to the bank and you’ll be convicted of bank fraud for giving them a bad check. Unfortunately, too many people have fallen for this shameful scam so, when in doubt, never deal with anything other than cash.
4. The Missionary Scam
It’s a sad warning to give, but whenever anyone emphasizes in an email that they’re a missionary, this is a huge red flag and one of the most common Craigslist scams. The person can be on either end of the deal (they can be the landlord or they can be the renter), but the story is always the same. They’re a missionary that is currently traveling in Africa but looking for a renter or someone to rent their home to while they’re out of the country. The only way they can handle the transaction is electronically via wired funds or a check that you must deposit. Oh, and sometimes, they’ll even mention leaving a key somewhere for you to go and get robbed. Sounds intense, but it’s better to be informed and realistic.
3. An Over-Anxious Seller
Anytime someone is too eager to meet with you in person or putting a lot of pressure to buy something from them as soon as possible, I can guarantee you that these are huge red flags. People who are likely to commit in-person crimes such as robbery, assault, or even murder will want to meet in private places and will come up with all kinds of excuses as to why you can’t meet them at any other location or at any other time. If this is the case, you don’t want to become the victim of a calculated or even repeated crime.
2. An Over-Anxious Buyer or Renter
Anyone who is too anxious to buy or rent from you can likely be untrustworthy. The best thing to do in this situation is to take control and slow the person down. Let them know that there are other buyers or renters that you’re considering and that you’ll respond according to your time and schedule. If the person backfires with urgency and even hostility, then these are all reasons to discontinue communication with them altogether. Avoid having interaction with these kinds of buyers and renters to avoid getting involved in further issues where you might even be held responsible for something you could have easily avoided.
1. Not Even on Craigslist
Before continuing with any further communication, always make sure that you’re actually engaged in a real Craigslist ad or site. Unfortunately, there are many fake sites out there that mimic the real Craigslist site but are actually packed with more scams and fake ads. Double check the spelling of the URL in your browser bar to be sure that everything is spelled correctly including the city and Craigslist itself. Scammers are getting more sophisticated and clever these days in how they trick amateur users into falling for any kind of scam they can craft. It’s unfortunate yet frequently happens to the best of us.
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