Craigslist remains one of the most popular online marketplaces these days ever since it started as an email list back in 1995. In 2019, the AIM Media Group said Craigslist ranked as the top advertising site in the world in terms of revenue and traffic. It ranked 8th on EcommerceBytes’ 2020 Sellers Choice Awards.
Millions of users flock to the online classified ad website every month to look for anything from rental apartments to used cars to furniture. Unfortunately, anyone can make an anonymous post on Craigslist, which has paved the way for scammers to exploit the site’s massive user base. Although Craigslist staff tries to monitor listings, many scammers remain undetected.
What if you’ve fallen victim to these unscrupulous individuals? You’d want to know what to do after being scammed on craigslist.
You can flag the listing on Craigslist, report it to the US Federal Trade Commission, or International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Where Can You Report Craigslist Scams?
You’ll find different ways to report a Craigslist scam. You can choose at least one of the following methods.
- Flag the listing directly on Craigslist. All you need to do is click on the red flag icon located at the top of the page.
- Flag an email reply. At the bottom of your email correspondence with the scammer, you’ll find a text that says “Please flag unwanted messages.” Click the link below the text.
- Report the scam to the US Federal Trade Commission. Choose a complaint category, answer questions related to the incident, and give other details about the scam.
- Report the scam to the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network. Econsumer.gov works with more than 35 international consumer protection agencies who can help identify and stop scammers.
- Report the scam to the Better Business Bureau.
- Report the scam with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Craigslist scams are often difficult to spot and prosecute because scammers use fake personal information. They use phone names, addresses, and phone numbers so that you can’t trace their real identity. Additionally, many scammers are located overseas, which makes it more difficult to track and prosecute them.
What are the Most Common Craigslist Scams?
1. Non-Local Ad Scams
Several Craigslist buyers have been scammed after responding to an ad that was posted by someone who’s not from their area. It’s a type of Craigslist scam that involves shipping, making a downpayment first, or transferring your payment in full using a certain online platform.
Scammers use this ruse to rip you off your hard-earned cash. It’s either they don’t ship your order or give you a wrong or defective item. It’s best to deal with local sellers so that you can check the item first before the purchase.
2. Fake Job Postings
Scammers list phony job postings to steal job seekers’ social security numbers and other personal information. These fake job posts may include asking you to buy a startup kit, pay for bogus training, provide your information on a fake website, or ask you to cover the cost of a background check.
3. Ticket Scam
Craigslist has also been a place to sell fake sporting events, concerts, and airline tickets. With today’s technology, scammers can easily make legitimate-looking tickets, making it difficult for consumers to determine if they’re real or counterfeit. Other scammers also sell canceled tickets. For example, they purchase a ticket and sell it to unsuspecting buyers. Once it’s sold, scammers will cancel the ticket.
4. Fake Checks or Money Orders
Never deal with buyers who prefer checks, wire transfers, or money order as the payment method. Scammers can easily create fake checks or money orders, which they can use to trick you into sending the item.
5. Fake Escrow Service Site
Scammers can also use a fake Escrow service site to trick you into depositing money for an order that you’ll never get. Not only that, but scammers can also use the information that you’ve provided on that fake website for their fraudulent activities.
6. Fake Craigslist Purchase Protection
Craigslist may be a known online marketplace, but it doesn’t offer any purchase protection plan. So, any email or text that claims to protect or verify your purchase is a scam.
7. Fake PayPal Email
If you’re a seller, scammers may try to convince you that they’ve already paid for the item by sending a fake email that says you’ve received payment in PayPal but is currently on hold until the order is shipped.
8. Fake Craigslist Sites
Scammers have created spoof sites of Craigslist to trick users into giving them their money. The only legitimate website of Craigslist is www.craigslist.org. Any other website claiming to be Craigslist is a scam.
Beware of phishing scams. Some people send emails to users and pretend to be employees of Craigslist. They trick users into clicking a malicious link or downloading an infected file by convincing them that their Craigslist account was blocked or they have to verify some information.
How Do You Know If You Are Getting Scammed On Craigslist?
While you’re browsing Craigslist, you need to know the common warning signs of a Craigslist scam. Here’s how to identify a Craigslist scammer:
- Unreasonably low price – Items that are being sold for a price that’s too good to be true is most likely a scam.
- No in-person contact – Sellers or buyers who don’t want to meet in person to complete the transaction is a warning sign that you’re dealing with a scammer.
- Specific payment required – Be careful of listings that contain red flag words, such as checks, money transfer, or wire transfer. A reliable and trustworthy individual will agree to meet you in person so that you can see the item before the purchase. If the seller doesn’t agree, then it’s possibly a scam.
- No specifics – Be careful of a buyer or seller who doesn’t want to provide specific answers to your inquiries.
- Third-party service – If the seller asks you to transfer your payment using an unfamiliar third-party service, you should take it as a sign that it’s probably a scam.
Will Craigslist Refund You If You Got Scammed?
Unfortunately, Craigslist doesn’t guarantee transactions and can’t do anything about a problematic deal. For these reasons, the online classifieds ads suggest the use of cash or personal check in any Craigslist transaction. It’s also recommended for both seller and buyer to meet in person to get the item and payment.
How Can You Avoid Being Scammed On Craigslist?
While scams are prevalent on Craigslist, you can take measures to lessen your chances of falling victim to their schemes. Here are some tips:
- Never send payment to a person you haven’t met in person.
- Always deal with local sellers or buyers.
- Always pay in cash.
- Avoid listings that involve shipping.
- Don’t send payment via wire transfer.
- Never deal with someone who uses third-party services that offer “guarantees.”
- Never provide confidential information, such as your Social Security number, bank account, etc.
- Look up the seller or buyer using their phone number or email address.
- Bring a friend or relative with you so that someone else can help you check the item.
- Use the anonymous email address when communicating with other Craigslist users.
- Never agree to pay for anything without seeing the item first.
- Don’t give out your personal information when communicating with other Craigslist users.
- Always trust your instincts. If you’re having second thoughts, then don’t go through the deal.
- Block suspicious phone numbers claiming to be from Craigslist.
- Don’t buy from sellers who seem to be in a rush. In some cases, a listing that has a strong sense of urgency can trick consumers into buying immediately without researching or considering other options.
- Watch out for grammatical and spelling errors. A few typos are understandable, but a listing that’s filled with spelling mistakes and poor English is an indication that it may be a scam.
- Scammers may use general photos when trying to sell an item. Ask for actual photos of the item. If the seller can’t give any, then you should find another seller.
- Avoid ads that are listed in different cities. Listings that are found in different places should be considered as a red flag since sellers are expected to post ads in their local area.
- If the price or offer on the item is too good to be true, don’t buy it. It’s most likely a scam.
- Avoid listings that promote inappropriate, pornographic, or illegal content.
Craigslist is a popular online marketplace. Unfortunately, it’s filled with scammers who are just waiting for their next victim. If you think you’re being scammed or you’ve already fallen for one, take the necessary steps. You can flag the listing directly on Craigslist and report the scam to the FTC, BBB, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, and FBI. It’s also important to remain vigilant. Always be on the lookout for warning signs of a Craigslist scam.