Craigslist is a great platform for buying and selling all range of items – from limited-edition toys to concert tickets to refurbished smartphones.
It’s a one-stop shop for millions of goods. While Craigslist is incredibly useful for both buyers and sellers, as with any large platform, it is important to be aware of common Craigslist scams and how to avoid them.
Taking precautions before a possible incident arises minimizes risk and makes the buying or selling experience less stressful and more efficient for all involved.
Spotting a Scam Listing
Anyone can post an item to Craigslist with just their email address. That’s not too much background information!
So if you’re a potential buyer on Craigslist, there are some red flags you should be aware of before you even consider making a purchase.
When looking for a product, prioritize listings that feature photos rather than just text explaining what it is.
While you’re at it, check to be sure that these are original photos from the seller, not taken from somewhere else on the Internet. It’s easy to determine whether a photo is original or not – simply copy the image link and perform a search.
If the photo appears on multiple websites, it very likely isn’t original.
If you’re in the market for a particular item, like a laptop or camera for example, do a little research about the average price of the item.
Items that are priced extremely high or low should arouse your suspicion.
It’s not just products that you need to look out for on Craigslist. Perhaps more problematic are the rental listing scams, which often feature extremely low prices or a non-screening application process.
Unfortunately, Craigslist and other sites seem to be plagued by these sort of schemes.
According to an analysis from Apartment List, just over 43% of Americans have encountered a fraudulent rental and 5.2 million have lost money due to a rental scheme.
If you do choose to look for a possible property rental on Craigslist, it is imperative that you do your due diligence.
Double check to see if the property advertised is featured on other rental sites. If you’re in the area, check the rental’s location and verify it is indeed for rent.
Be aware of listings that tout impossibly low rents or no background check – they’re likely not legitimate.
Safe Transactions on Craigslist
While we are used to being able to order anything online from anywhere and have it shipped to our doorstep in a few days’ time, a site like Craigslist works best when it is used for purchasing items in your local area.
This is true for both buyers and sellers, as it helps protects both parties during a transaction.
Whether you’re on Craigslist to buy or to sell, a general best practice is to meet with the person on the other end of the transaction.
This way, buyers can ensure that they are getting the same product they saw online, make the payment, and take their item home without incident.
For sellers, this keeps transactions simple since payment is made directly by the buyer in person.
Whichever role you may be in, arrange a meetup in a safe, public place, like a coffee shop. Never suggest meeting at your home or apartment.
Before the meeting, you might want to do a little background research on the person on the other side of the transaction.
Using a site like Nuwber, you can get more information about someone from just their phone number.
Particularly if you’re making a bigger purchase, this might be a necessary precaution to protect yourself from a potential scam.
When it comes to making the transaction, on Craigslist cash is king.
This is another reason it’s best practice to conduct transactions in person where possible.
Imposter scams, which were the most common type of scam reported in 2017 by the FTC, cost Americans over $328 million that year alone.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of Craigslist transactions, this type of scam is not out of the ordinary.
For buyers, beware of sellers who are asking you to use alternative payment methods, such as a wire transfer.
This could be an attempt to acquire your bank account information. Escrow services have also proved problematic.
While such a service may initially seem to bring peace of mind as it holds the money until a transaction has been completed, scammers have created fake escrow sites.
In such a case, the buyer never receives their product and loses their money.
It’s not just on the buying side that Craigslist users have to keep an eye out for scams. Sellers should be equally aware of the dangers of a buyer wishing to pay via wire transfer or money order.
Both sellers and buyers should avoid conducting transactions with individuals who want to buy or sell something, sight unseen.
This can be an attempt to steal your identity by gathering personal information about you during the transaction.
Buy and sell smart on Craigslist by conducting transactions in person and in your local area.
When it comes to transactions, cash is best.
Steer clear of anyone looking to complete a transaction with a wire transfer or money order – they may very well be stealing for your banking information.
Craigslist is an incredibly useful platform for both buyers and sellers.
Many people have had positive experiences both buying and selling on the platform.
However, as with any large platform, it is important to take certain precautions, particularly where your money and personal information is involved.
For both buyers and sellers, keeping transactions local and paying in cash, will keep transactions safe and profitable for both parties.
Do your due diligence before meeting a buyer and seller in person, always meeting in a public space.
Don’t be afraid to decline a transaction if the person is asking for your banking information or otherwise acting in a suspicious manner.
If something smells off, your nose might just be right.
Keep your Craigslist interactions positive ones by being smart and cautious from the moment you click on the site.