How to Avoid Craigslist Scams

By Nancy Wagner

Updated September 26, 2017

Craigslist brings buyers and sellers together, but be wary of people who want to scam you.
i Aquir/iStock/Getty Images classified advertisements give you a free way to buy and sell products and services. Just about everything imaginable is sold on the popular website, but the news is full of reports of scams perpetuated by untrustworthy people. Whether you’re buying merchandise or want to sell something, knowing how to avoid scams is key to safely and successfully using Craigslist.

Go Local

One of the best tips from the website itself for avoiding most scams is to only sell or buy from people in your local area. Meet with buyers or sellers in person to eliminate 99 percent of the scams people dream up to rob you of your money or valuables. If the buyer or seller refuses to meet in person, be guarded about any further dealings. When you meet with a potential buyer or seller, meet in a public place and not at your home. If you can’t get around having them come to your house, move the merchandise just outside your door or garage so the other party does not need to come inside. Invite a friend or family member to hang out as backup when you absolutely must meet someone at your home.

Choose Best Payment Methods

Scams often occur when it comes to monetary transactions. Avoid being taken by never accepting wired funds from Western Union or Money Gram. Some scammers may try to pay for goods or services with fake money orders or cashier’s checks. Figuring out if a cashier’s check is fraudulent is difficult, so request that the buyer obtain a cashier’s check from a financial institution in your area so you can verify its legitimacy. Watch for scams where someone offers to mail you a cashier’s check and then asks you to wire the overage back to them -- the check is likely fake and just a way to get cash out of you.

Verify Images

If you want to rent an apartment or book a vacation rental sight unseen, take precautions to avoid being scammed out of a property that may not exist. Conduct a reverse image search by downloading the photo of the property, and then go to reverse image search websites, such as TinEye, to see if the image appears elsewhere on the web. Another option is to open the ad in the Chrome browser, and then right click on an image in the ad. Choose “Search Google for this image” to conduct a search and see if this image actually belongs to another property and is being used fraudulently.

Avoid Giving Personal Information

Avoid giving out personal information, such as your social security number or home address, in your Craigslist ads. Don’t put your phone number in the ad either. Instead, use Craigslist’s email system to anonymously field requests for more information from interested parties. Then, once you feel the buyer or seller is legitimate, you can share your phone number to make arrangements to meet or to finalize the transaction.