The Complete Guide to Avoid Scams on Craigslist

The rise of the Internet has greatly revolutionized the economy. Instead of going out to purchase goods from a store, you can easily buy something with just a click of a button. Sadly though, this convenience comes at a sobering price – increasing risk of online scam. Every year, thousands of people are scammed. A report from the 2012 JP Morgan Online Fraud report suggests that about $3.4 billion in online revenue were lost due to fraud [1].

Craigslist_scamLaunched in 1995, a website known as Craigslist appeared to be an ideal solution to this problem. Craigslist combined the convenience of the Internet with the assurance of upfront face-to-face transactions. Craigslist allows users to buy and sell goods. Users can then set appointments with others to buy or sell a product. While Craigslist’s model does seem ideal, it itself is rife with problems – serious problems! In this guide, you will learn how to use Craigslist safely and effectively.

Keep Transactions Local and Upfront

This is one of the most important principles when using Craigslist – whether you are a buyer or seller. If you do this, you will positively avoid most scams fraudsters can hurl at you. Fraudsters on Craigslist are clever; they use sly tactics to rob your money. The key methods they use to do this are money transfer services – in the form of paychecks, MoneyGram, PayPal, or Western Union.

Key Point: Transactions that involve long-distance and money transfer services are almost always scams.

When you are buying a product, fraudsters claim that they will send you the product if you send your money to them through transfers. If you are selling products, the fake buyers often claim that they will send you the money after you ship the item to them.

Online Money

The fraudsters try their utmost to sound as convincing as possible. If you are buying a product, they’ll significantly reduce the price of the item, because they need to “sell it right away.” Some of them make bogus claims that these products are from a foreclosed home or a divorced conjugal partner. If you are selling a product, they’ll often tell you that they “desperately” need the product. They will even claim to pay for shipping and offer a higher price than what you originally asked for.

In both of those cases, the fraudsters will ask you to give them your PayPal, MoneyGram, or Western Union information to complete the transaction. Don’t ever do this! They will never send you the money if you sold something to them, and they will never send you the item if you purchased something from them.

What if the Person is not a Fraudster? How Would You Know?

Albeit unlikely, it is possible that it is a normal and well-intentioned person that is making a transaction with you. How would you know? One way to know is by interrogating the person – yes – aggressively questioning him. If he claims that he is very far away and needs money transfer, sternly tell him that you already know about this scam. In most cases, scammers will shy away if they see this. If a person from a distant location is buying  something from you, ask a question like this: “if you want this so bad, why don’t you buy it from eBay or Amazon?” Next, show them a link to the product. If they don’t reply, they were positively a scammer. If they were real buyers, they would thank you for referring them there.

How to Avoid Getting Attacked and Killed

No product and no amount of money is more precious than your life! Sadly, many people have been murdered due to fraudsters and heinous individuals on Craigslist. Fortunately, you can prevent this as well. You can do this by insisting on transacting on public locations and by threatening to get or actually getting the police involved.

If you are concerned about your security, insist on meeting at a public location like a store, supermarket, or restaurant. Don’t ever make an appointment at your home or the person’s home. If you meet with the person at your home, they now know where you live. If you lie and meet with the person at a place that you claim to live, you are putting the people residing at this address in jeopardy. That is why it is best to meet at a public location.


However, even meeting at a public location is not completely safe. The person can meet you behind the store and attack you or cleverly wait until no one is watching to launch an attack. If you are still concerned about your safety, tell the person that you have informed the police of this transaction. If that person is an aggressor, he will back way as soon as he hears that the police is involved. Whether you think it is best to trick the person in thinking that police is involved or actually contacting the police is up to you.

Is Craigslist a Waste of Your Time?

No, Craigslist is not a waste of your time. You can find good deals and have success promoting your business and selling products there. You just have to be determined to follow the recommended guidelines.

1. JP Morgan: 2012 Online Fraud Report

Image credit: Don Hankins, West Midlands Police, Internet Scam by BigStockPhoto.

Juderson Jean-Baptiste

Juderson Jean-Baptiste has been a fervid writer since 2009. He works has appeared in the Houston Chronicle LiveStrong, and Arizona Local News. Juderson is also the founder and coordinating editor of LibreHealth -- a health blog that accentuates on providing quality wellness guides. When Juderson is bored, he is either scouring the Web for the latest tech gadgets or delving into intriguing health topics.

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