Common Craigslist Scams and How to Avoid Them


woman realizing she got scammed on craigslist

Before the internet, if you wanted to sell something, or a bunch of somethings, you had  three choices: have a garage sale, list it in the “For Sale” section of your local paper, or list in it a marketplace print publication. Your marketing efforts, no matter what method you chose, were limited to your local area. 

Fast forward to 1995 when Craigslist opened up a whole new world, or at least a much greater geographical reach, for people looking to buy or sell new or preowned items.  Like every online transaction, buying and selling on Craigslist comes with the risk of fraud. Making sure you are familiar with most common scams on the site and protecting yourself with the proper resources when you do have any questions on a listing are the two best ways to avoid being scammed on Craigslist.  

Identifying the Common Scams on Craigslist

Scam Theme or Name  Scam Description  What to Look for/Avoid 
Rental Scam  The person listing the property is not the owner and/or does not have the right to rent it out. Or the property listed is misrepresented in the description, or through fake photos, and in some cases does not exist at all.  Avoid listings where the landlord/owner will not meet in person, pressures you to move in right away and/or asks you to submit funds prior to an in person tour or signing a lease.  
Resale Scam  Seller lists fake tickets to a concert or event and requires payment before sending the tickets – by the time you realized you’ve been scammed the fraudster and your money are long gone. Scammers also list products that are not authentic or do not exist.   Only purchase tickets through apps or websites that offer a guarantee of authenticity.  Avoid buying items, particularly designer items, that only use stock photos. Insist on a real time photo to show authenticity. 
Overpayment Scam  The scammer, accidentally overpays, or pays the wrong  amount. They ask to be refunded or to redo the transaction, but the original payment is fraudulent.    Never refund a payment prior to confirming with your bank that the funds are good.   

man scammed on craigslist
Victim of the old bait-and-switch scam

Using PeopleFinders to Avoid Craigslist Scams

In addition to being aware of common scams on Craigslist, you can protect yourself against online scammers by completing a verification search on PeopleFinders. With access to over a billion public records nationwide, PeopleFinders can confirm multiple forms of data associated with the other party, such as: 

  • The identity of the buyer or seller, that they are who they claim to be. 
  • The address of the buyer or seller, contact information of the buyer or seller (including phone numbers and emails). 
  • Whether the buyer/seller’s has a criminal background 

What if I’ve Been Scammed on Craigslist?

If you believe you have come across or been a victim of a Craigslist scam, mark it as such at the top of the page and email Craigslist at[email protected]. If you used a debit or credit card to pay for a scam item you should contact your bank or card issuer. And while your purchase may seem like a small, local crime, all online crimes should be reported to FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission so they can record, track, and potentially identify and prosecute the fraudster behind the scam.  

The Right Tools to Avoid Craigslist Scams

Online financial crimes can have disastrous results, both instant and long-term, which makes it all the more critical that you take the necessary steps to prevent becoming a victim in the first place. The first line of defense is making sure you are familiar with popular Craigslist scams and their identifying factors; the second, and most important line of defense is using an online search platform like PeopleFinders to verify the other party’s identity and/or any questionable information before completing any online transaction.      

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