8 Craigslist scams to recognize and avoid

Anton P. | May 22, 2023

Craigslist scams exploit people posting classifieds and forums for jobs, rentals, and interested buyers. This platform intends to provide a localized selling/buying experience.

Thus, people visiting Craigslist should prefer meeting face-to-face instead of sending down payments. However, Craigslist scams thrive, tricking users into wire transfers without seeing a rental or car. 

You can browse Craigslist postings and detect scammers quickly by following several tips. Read on for some golden rules that sellers and buyers should follow. 

See common Craigslist scams to help you recognize fraudulent ads.

How do Craigslist scams work

Craigslist scams are usually after money, bank account information, and other valuable information. 

Craigslist scams can work on multiple angles, promises, or products: 

  • Sellers post Craigslist ads for items that do not belong to them, like apartment rentals. 
  • Some criminals might prefer face-to-face meetings only to lure victims into particular areas. Such scams could even pose a threat to people’s physical safety. 
  • Sellers require upfront payments without letting you view the goods in person. 
  • Scammers post ads and engage with buyers to capture users’ personal information.

Can you trust people on Craigslist? 

It is best to never fully trust someone on Craigslist to avoid the risks of encountering a scam. However, certain red flags can suggest whether the person is a genuine buyer or seller. 

  1. Most Craigslist scams will not agree to meet in person. Instead, even local sellers will prefer shipping. 
  2. More cunning scammers can also choose more private and anonymous instant messaging platforms
  3. Criminals can require payments through services that offer little buyer protection, like Zelle or Cash App
  4. The seller or buyer requires a lot of personal information that is unnecessary for the transaction. 

Things to avoid on Craigslist

  • Suspect offers and deals that are too good to be true as potential Craigslist scams.
  • Craigslist does not facilitate payments. Any guarantees or purchase protections mentioned are fraudulent. 
  • It is best not to use escrow service sites as they might belong to scammers.
  • Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace should not be a place for upfront payments. Ideally, buying and selling transactions happen in person and a safe location.

What Craigslist scammers can do with your personal information?

Craigslist scammers can use various means to extort users’ personal information. Usually, people encountering scammers note these details required: 

  • Email address;
  • Phone number; 
  • Credit card information;
  • Home address;
  • Social security number; 
  • Full name. 

Criminals could abuse this information for synthetic identity theft. With enough information, it is possible to steal assets and accounts.

What are common Craigslist scams? 

Craigslist scams usually fall into particular categories. See which deals might make you look the other way. 

  1. Rental scams 

Craigslist housing scams refer to bogus offers to rent houses or apartments. The first red flag of such fraud is the attractive price. 

In reality, alleged sellers have nothing to do with the rental properties. People living in these houses and flats might not know someone posted their property as bait. 

Here are the main goals of Craigslist rental scams: 

  • Scammers require hefty sums to reserve the apartment. 
  • They can also require upfront payments for dealing with the paperwork. 
  • The chances are interested renters will need to send money before ever visiting the property. 
  • Criminals could also require people to fill in forms to determine if they are suitable tenants. Such forms can require bank information, social security numbers, email address, license, credit reports, etc. 
  1. Car scams 

Many Craigslist scams also pretend to offer items like cars. It is common for such fraud to follow these scenarios: 

  • Scammer tries to sell a vehicle that does not belong to them. 
  • The seller prices the car or other motor vehicle at a surprisingly low price. 
  • Criminals insist on using a spoofed online escrow site. 

The usual goal of Craigslist scams offering pricey items like cars is to get an upfront payment. 

  1. Fake escrow services 

Craigslist scammers might suggest using an escrow service as a way to guarantee that buyers’ money is safe. An escrow service is a third party between the buyer and seller. It holds the funds until the contract conditions are met. 

Unfortunately, scammers can spoof legitimate escrow services or create fake ones. Thus, consider it a red flag if a Craigslist seller or buyer insists on using an escrow. 

  1. Scams for sellers 

While many Craigslist scams target buyers, sellers are not immune. Buyers could also send fake checks or bank statements. Thus, the unsuspecting seller ships the item but never receives the money. 

  1. ‘Send a code’ Google Voice scam

Craigslist scammers might also try to set up a Google Voice linked to victims’ phone numbers. Thus, they can trick other people while hiding their true identity. 

The Google Voice scam happens as follows: 

  • A fraudulent buyer contacts the seller and states they wish to buy the item. 
  • However, fearing fake listings, they wish to verify that the seller is reliable. 
  • The seller receives a 6-digit Google Voice verification code. 
  • Buyers insist that the seller sends them the code. 
  • If the seller complies, the buyer sets up a Google Voice linked to their number. 

The scammer will likely use the Google Voice account to make more fraudulent calls and fraud. 

  1. Cashier’s check scams

The buyer might send a cashier’s check for the item listed on Craigslist. However, it is usually a fake check. The most worrying factor is that when the sellers cash the check, banks will suspect them. Thus, sellers might even face legal issues for fake checks. 

Another common Craigslist scams are checks that exceed the price of items. Buyers could state it happened by accident and ask you to send the difference. The check will bounce, and sellers have paid them out of pocket.  

  1. Fraudulent job listings 

Craigslist scams can also focus on people looking for jobs. The fake offer will likely offer excellent conditions and salary. Here are some red flags the job posting might be bogus:

  • The job requires no experience but promises a high salary. 
  • Recruiters ask you to pay for training or equipment before you begin. 
  • Candidates need to provide highly sensitive information like bank details. 
  • Avoid Craigslist recruiters who claim to work for a well-known company but provide no proof.
  • Candidates need to buy certain products to start working. 
  1. Phishing emails impersonating Craigslist

Scammers might also send verification or purchase protection emails claiming to be from Craigslist. Do not trust such emails, as Craigslist does not offer such services. 

Report Craigslist scam

If you fall victim to Craigslist scams, report the situation immediately. You might need to contact multiple providers depending on the situation. For instance, you might need to call your bank to stop any transactions. 

However, you should report scams even if you detect them in time. First, you might reach out to Craigslist about the potential fraud. 

People in the United States can report Craigslist scams to the following authorities:

  • Internet Fraud Complaint Center
  • FTC complaint form and hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)

If you are from a different country, contact the authorities dealing with online fraud.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.



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