Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Online scammers are more prolific than ever these days. Although the public is aware of these scams, fraudsters are only getting smarter and more sophisticated in their use of technology to carry out their schemes.
Craigslist in particular has earned a reputation as a place for scams, and for good reason: countless fraudsters are trying to trick users out of their money. Here are some common Craigslist scams and how to spot them, so you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
Last Year’s Most Popular Online Scams
The Street outlined some of the most widespread Craiglist scams of 2018:
- Fake/cancelled tickets. From concerts to flights, scammers can make tickets look legit when they’re not. Additionally, they might try selling tickets to an event that’s been cancelled.
- Craigslist copycats. By simply changing one letter or “.com” to another domain extension in the web address, scammers can trick consumers into believing they’re on Craigslist — when really, it’s a fraud.
- PayPal email scam. Many fraudsters claim they’ll pay via PayPal, only to give a fake address or fake email confirmation of the payment.
- Fraudulent purchase protection. The real Craigslist does not currently offer purchase protection. However, scammers will pretend they do and pose as such.
Although the following scams didn’t necessarily originate on Craigslist, they were also quite common over the last year, according to Mountain Times.
- IRS imposter. A fraudster acts as the IRS and calls to tell you that you owe “back taxes” or payments to the government. They typically threaten legal action if you don’t participate.
- Social Security number phishing. Posing as the Social Security Administration, scammers try to convince you that your Social Security number has been compromised or stolen.
- Computer tech support. For this one, you might receive a phone call or email from “Microsoft” or “Windows,” alerting you that your device has become infected with a virus or similar issue that only the scammer can resolve.
- Grandchild imposter. Using information from social media or an email contact list, the scammer will pose as the victim’s grandchild. They’ll claim they’re in “serious trouble” and need the victim to send money.
- Neighbor spoofing. If you notice someone is calling from your area code, you might be more likely to answer it; but scammers can fake a phone number with VoiP (voice over internet protocol).
Spotting Craigslist Scams
Think someone might be trying to trick you on Craigslist? Komando offered the following tips for spotting scams.
They won’t meet in person.
According to Craigslist, you can avoid 99 percent of scams if you avoid transactions with sellers who can’t/refuse to meet you in person. Face-to-face transactions with local individuals are the safest way to ensure you aren’t being deceived.
Their offer is extremely vague or too good to be true.
If someone isn’t specific with what they’re selling, where they’re from or whether they’re willing to meet up, you’re better off looking elsewhere. You’ll also want to avoid ads that make grand claims and unrealistic promises – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
They want to pay by wire transfer or escrow.
Cash is the most reliable form of payment. If you do accept a cashier’s check or money order, go with that person to their bank and see it issued; but never agree to a wire transfer, like Western Union or MoneyGram. Similarly, if someone asks you to use an “escrow” or a third-party service that will hold your money until both parties are satisfied, do not agree to it, as most are run by scammers.
Regardless of the situation, always be cautious when dealing with a stranger’s Craigslist ad. If you’re buying something, always meet in a public place with a friend. If you’re answering a roommate ad, research and vet them before signing a lease. A little bit of due diligence may help you avoid would-be scammers.