Need help?

Chat with a Tech Pro or call us
at1-833-202-2695.

Special Offer: All students, parents, & educators get 50% off tech support for the entire school year. Select the Support - Annual plan and enter code “EdTech50” during checkout.

Top Craigslist Scams to Be Aware Of

Authored by:
Support.com Tech Pro Team
This Guided Path® was written and reviewed by Support.com’s Tech Pro team. With decades of experience, our Tech Pros are passionate about making technology work for you. We love feedback! Let us know what you think about this Guided Path by rating it at the end.

Top scams on craigslist

Craigslist is the modern take on the local classifieds section. Sellers and buyers alike love it for the convenience that a local paper just can't compete with. The downside to online marketplaces like Craigslist is that scammers and thieves are also on the platform.

Because of this, dealing with Craigslist can be a frustrating experience. How can I tell if a listing is a scam or not? What are the common types of scams on Craigslist? Should I agree to sending a down payment via Western Union? Is using an escrow service on Craigslist safe? How can I be sure a posting is legitimate?

Learning about staying safe on Craigslist does not have to be a struggle. Read about the most common types of scams thieves are using right now on Craigslist. Knowing what to watch out for is the best defense.

Common types of Craigslist scams

The non-local ad scam

Buyers and sellers are less likely to be disappointed by a transaction if they stick to face-to-face transactions. Craigslist was created to be a community classified, so use it that way. Don't buy if it isn't local.

Ignore ads that involve shipping. Posters of non-local ads won't be able to meet up with buyers. They often require a down payment or a money transfer in full which is risky for buyers. Some may try to involve a third party like an escrow service, but that could be unsafe. Sellers should be willing to meet in person and bring the items they are selling. Buyers need the opportunity to check an item over or test it out before purchase to avoid scams.

Be aware of the fake rental scam which is another type of non-local scam. This is where the rental is local, but the seller says they are "out of town" or "moving". Never send money up front. Speak to the landlord on the phone and demand to see the listing in person. When on the call, make sure their phone number is local as an added safety measure.

The person posting the ad should be in the area. Beware of any initial refusal to meet and never send any form of partial payment. Keep safe when meeting anyone from Craigslist

Phony job postings

The last thing any job seeker needs is to be scammed by a fake career in the classifieds. With this type of scam, the scammer lists a job that doesn't exist. The listing is used to steal the victim's social security number, credit card and bank account info.

To keep their personal information safe, a job seeker must be aware of a few tricks scammers use on Craigslist:

  1. Work from home assembly job scam. This is where an applicant has to buy a startup kit to assemble products to sell. Kits are paid for by the job seeker, but no money is made from it.

  2. Pay for training scam. Similar to the pay for startup kit scam. The applicant is asked to pay up front for bogus training which they'll never receive.

  3. Credit report scam. During some point in the "hiring" process, the employer will claim they need to do a credit score check. The job seeker is guided to a fake website in order to fill in their personal information, which is then stolen.

  4. Background check scam. The candidate is notified that they'll need to cover the costs of a background check for the job. Scammers pocket the money and vanish.

Run away from job postings for secret shoppers, survey-taking, or anything that requires money up front. Any mention of payment via Western Union, MoneyGram, or money order is a huge red flag. Refuse background checks until the employer has been met in person.

Scammers Use Fake Job Postings to Steal Personal Information
How to Keep Personal Information Safe OnlineHow to Keep Personal Information Safe Online

Your Social Security numbers, credit cards, online passwords may be at risk. Here are 12 ways to keep personal information safe on the Internet.

Ticket fraud

Craigslist is a great place to sell tickets to concerts, festivals, sporting events, and even airline tickets. Unfortunately, sometimes it's not the greatest for shoppers.

fake concert ticket.

Buyers need to be on the lookout because of how convincing ticket scams are. With a common printer and computer, a scammer can create an authentic looking facsimile of a ticket. Some will even try to replicate holograms and other watermarks on tickets. They then post the ticket for sale online and simply wait for the emails to arrive. The victim takes the ticket to the venue but is met with disappointment, lost time and money.

Buying tickets on Craigslist is a little risky, so do a little preparation before picking them up. Make sure the event hasn't been cancelled. Ask for photos of the tickets. Find out what real tickets look like and do some comparison. I always meet up face-to-face before paying so that I can see if the tickets look or feel counterfeit.

Avoid ticket scams completely by buying from reputable sites or at the venue itself.

The fake money order or check scam

On Craigslist, alarm bells should be going off when a buyer or seller wants to use a money order, wire transfer or check. Scammers can create realistic looking checks, packing slips and even money orders claiming to be from Western Union. It's best then to not accept them.

Fake check

If a check looks and feels legitimate, ensure it clears before shipping what was bought. Most banks will accept the deposit right away. If possible, wait a few days to make sure the bank does not void the check.

Escrow scams

Escrow is used so that a neutral party is involved in a transaction. This gives buyers and sellers more confidence with the deal, especially when larger amounts of money are involved. If there is any dispute, an escrow service will help mediate and resolve the situation. It's a great way to protect against fraud.

In an escrow scam, thieves create fake websites claiming to be associated with a legit escrow service. Scammers use this trick to gain a buyer's confidence by exploiting their credulity. If a buyer initially refuses to use the fake site, the seller may suggest another phony site. The buyer will send money to the fraudulent escrow site. The seller pockets the money and the buyer gets nothing. Further, the buyer now has an increased risk of future scams for handing over their personal information.

Does the seller seem a little too eager to use a particular escrow service?

There's a number of signs to help gauge whether an escrow site is fake or not. Fake websites are often hastily put together and may have typographical errors. Fraudulent escrow sites list customer service phone numbers that can't be reached. The words "safe" and "secure" are overemphasized. The URL in the address bar may be wrong or appear sketchy.

Escrow services can protect buyers and sellers against fraud, but never assume the site is legit. Instead, verify the site's legitimacy or insist on using a trusted escrow service.

Fake Craigslist Purchase Protection

craigslist purchase protection plan guaranteed

There is no purchase protection plan, only purchase protection scam. Ignore any emails or text messages claiming to verify or protect a recent purchase. Scammers posing as sellers use this trick on their listings to gain a buyer's trust. Do not be fooled. Craigslist does not back any transaction.

Fake emails from PayPal that say you received money

A scammer who promises to send money through PayPal will not follow through. Instead, they'll send a convincing looking email that seems as though it's from PayPal. The fake email will most likely contain malicious links and a lie that payment was received. The email may claim that the money is "on hold" until the item is shipped.

Use caution with PayPal when selling items on sites like Craigslist.

  • When money is received, never click links in the email. Instead, open a web browser, log into PayPal and check if the payment is in the account. 
  • The email should address the PayPal account holder by their first and last name.
  • Check the sender's email address to help spot fake emails.
  • Watch for typographical and poor grammar.
  • Be cautious around email attachments because they can contain malicious links and viruses. Learn how to spot nasty email attachments.

Conclusion

We covered the most common scams on Craigslist, but there are more with many variations. Therefore, we need to keep guarded and follow our instincts when dealing with Craigslist or any other online marketplace.

Read listings very carefully and be skeptical. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Try to gauge how eager the other party seems to be. Deal with locals in person or on the phone and complete transactions face-to-face. Never give out personal information like addresses, social security numbers, or bank account information.

The marketplace on Craigslist helps communities exchange goods. Sellers can make money by selling unwanted items. Buyers love finding great deals. Watch for these types of scams and more and follow these guidelines to help stay safe on Craigslist.

We're here to help!

chat
Connect to a Tech Pro

Call or chat with a Tech Pro 24/7.

Top scams on craigslist

Craigslist is the modern take on the local classifieds section. Sellers and buyers alike love it for the convenience that a local paper just can't compete with. The downside to online marketplaces like Craigslist is that scammers and thieves are also on the platform.

Because of this, dealing with Craigslist can be a frustrating experience. How can I tell if a listing is a scam or not? What are the common types of scams on Craigslist? Should I agree to sending a down payment via Western Union? Is using an escrow service on Craigslist safe? How can I be sure a posting is legitimate?

Learning about staying safe on Craigslist does not have to be a struggle. Read about the most common types of scams thieves are using right now on Craigslist. Knowing what to watch out for is the best defense.

Common types of Craigslist scams

The non-local ad scam

Buyers and sellers are less likely to be disappointed by a transaction if they stick to face-to-face transactions. Craigslist was created to be a community classified, so use it that way. Don't buy if it isn't local.

Ignore ads that involve shipping. Posters of non-local ads won't be able to meet up with buyers. They often require a down payment or a money transfer in full which is risky for buyers. Some may try to involve a third party like an escrow service, but that could be unsafe. Sellers should be willing to meet in person and bring the items they are selling. Buyers need the opportunity to check an item over or test it out before purchase to avoid scams.

Be aware of the fake rental scam which is another type of non-local scam. This is where the rental is local, but the seller says they are "out of town" or "moving". Never send money up front. Speak to the landlord on the phone and demand to see the listing in person. When on the call, make sure their phone number is local as an added safety measure.

The person posting the ad should be in the area. Beware of any initial refusal to meet and never send any form of partial payment. Keep safe when meeting anyone from Craigslist

Phony job postings

The last thing any job seeker needs is to be scammed by a fake career in the classifieds. With this type of scam, the scammer lists a job that doesn't exist. The listing is used to steal the victim's social security number, credit card and bank account info.

To keep their personal information safe, a job seeker must be aware of a few tricks scammers use on Craigslist:

  1. Work from home assembly job scam. This is where an applicant has to buy a startup kit to assemble products to sell. Kits are paid for by the job seeker, but no money is made from it.

  2. Pay for training scam. Similar to the pay for startup kit scam. The applicant is asked to pay up front for bogus training which they'll never receive.

  3. Credit report scam. During some point in the "hiring" process, the employer will claim they need to do a credit score check. The job seeker is guided to a fake website in order to fill in their personal information, which is then stolen.

  4. Background check scam. The candidate is notified that they'll need to cover the costs of a background check for the job. Scammers pocket the money and vanish.

Run away from job postings for secret shoppers, survey-taking, or anything that requires money up front. Any mention of payment via Western Union, MoneyGram, or money order is a huge red flag. Refuse background checks until the employer has been met in person.

Scammers Use Fake Job Postings to Steal Personal Information
How to Keep Personal Information Safe OnlineHow to Keep Personal Information Safe Online

Your Social Security numbers, credit cards, online passwords may be at risk. Here are 12 ways to keep personal information safe on the Internet.

Ticket fraud

Craigslist is a great place to sell tickets to concerts, festivals, sporting events, and even airline tickets. Unfortunately, sometimes it's not the greatest for shoppers.

fake concert ticket.

Buyers need to be on the lookout because of how convincing ticket scams are. With a common printer and computer, a scammer can create an authentic looking facsimile of a ticket. Some will even try to replicate holograms and other watermarks on tickets. They then post the ticket for sale online and simply wait for the emails to arrive. The victim takes the ticket to the venue but is met with disappointment, lost time and money.

Buying tickets on Craigslist is a little risky, so do a little preparation before picking them up. Make sure the event hasn't been cancelled. Ask for photos of the tickets. Find out what real tickets look like and do some comparison. I always meet up face-to-face before paying so that I can see if the tickets look or feel counterfeit.

Avoid ticket scams completely by buying from reputable sites or at the venue itself.

The fake money order or check scam

On Craigslist, alarm bells should be going off when a buyer or seller wants to use a money order, wire transfer or check. Scammers can create realistic looking checks, packing slips and even money orders claiming to be from Western Union. It's best then to not accept them.

Fake check

If a check looks and feels legitimate, ensure it clears before shipping what was bought. Most banks will accept the deposit right away. If possible, wait a few days to make sure the bank does not void the check.

Escrow scams

Escrow is used so that a neutral party is involved in a transaction. This gives buyers and sellers more confidence with the deal, especially when larger amounts of money are involved. If there is any dispute, an escrow service will help mediate and resolve the situation. It's a great way to protect against fraud.

In an escrow scam, thieves create fake websites claiming to be associated with a legit escrow service. Scammers use this trick to gain a buyer's confidence by exploiting their credulity. If a buyer initially refuses to use the fake site, the seller may suggest another phony site. The buyer will send money to the fraudulent escrow site. The seller pockets the money and the buyer gets nothing. Further, the buyer now has an increased risk of future scams for handing over their personal information.

Does the seller seem a little too eager to use a particular escrow service?

There's a number of signs to help gauge whether an escrow site is fake or not. Fake websites are often hastily put together and may have typographical errors. Fraudulent escrow sites list customer service phone numbers that can't be reached. The words "safe" and "secure" are overemphasized. The URL in the address bar may be wrong or appear sketchy.

Escrow services can protect buyers and sellers against fraud, but never assume the site is legit. Instead, verify the site's legitimacy or insist on using a trusted escrow service.

Fake Craigslist Purchase Protection

craigslist purchase protection plan guaranteed

There is no purchase protection plan, only purchase protection scam. Ignore any emails or text messages claiming to verify or protect a recent purchase. Scammers posing as sellers use this trick on their listings to gain a buyer's trust. Do not be fooled. Craigslist does not back any transaction.

Fake emails from PayPal that say you received money

A scammer who promises to send money through PayPal will not follow through. Instead, they'll send a convincing looking email that seems as though it's from PayPal. The fake email will most likely contain malicious links and a lie that payment was received. The email may claim that the money is "on hold" until the item is shipped.

Use caution with PayPal when selling items on sites like Craigslist.

  • When money is received, never click links in the email. Instead, open a web browser, log into PayPal and check if the payment is in the account. 
  • The email should address the PayPal account holder by their first and last name.
  • Check the sender's email address to help spot fake emails.
  • Watch for typographical and poor grammar.
  • Be cautious around email attachments because they can contain malicious links and viruses. Learn how to spot nasty email attachments.

Conclusion

We covered the most common scams on Craigslist, but there are more with many variations. Therefore, we need to keep guarded and follow our instincts when dealing with Craigslist or any other online marketplace.

Read listings very carefully and be skeptical. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Try to gauge how eager the other party seems to be. Deal with locals in person or on the phone and complete transactions face-to-face. Never give out personal information like addresses, social security numbers, or bank account information.

The marketplace on Craigslist helps communities exchange goods. Sellers can make money by selling unwanted items. Buyers love finding great deals. Watch for these types of scams and more and follow these guidelines to help stay safe on Craigslist.