Can They See Your Email Address When You Reply to a Craigslist Ad?

by Elizabeth Smith ; Updated August 23, 2017

Each ad on Craigslist is easy to reply to, particularly if it's set up with an email address. While its email system is anonymous, it is possible to reveal more information than you intended when posting or replying to ads. By taking precautions to hide your personal information, particularly your name and any information in your email signature, you can ensure your personal safety and guard your online identity.

Email Relay

Craigslist uses a two-way email relay system, which protects the email addresses for both parties. The system ensures that your email address isn't visible to the original poster. According to the site guidelines, the system is in place to prevent users from collecting email addresses to sell to spammers. It's also designed to help stop scams, which are prevalent on Craigslist. When you respond to an ad, the site automatically converts the poster's email address to an anonymous version that's routed through the Craigslist servers. The same happens when the poster responds to you. Instead of an email address, the original poster will see an anonymous address, like "abcde-0123456789@sale.craigslist.org."

Email Process

When replying to a Craigslist post, you can use your email program normally. The "Reply" button at the top of the ad enables you to open a webmail account, use your default mail program, or copy the relayed email address. There's no need to take any special action; when you send the email, it will automatically be routed through the relay system. The website enables you to continue communication with the poster for up to six months, even if the ad has been taken down.

Identifying Information

Despite the email relay system, it's still possible to reveal too much information when replying to an ad on Craigslist. The website cautions that the real name field will be visible. If you have your email set to your first and last name, you may be inadvertently giving away more details than you realize. The signature field of your email also passes through the email relay, which can be problematic if it contains your website, phone number, company name, email address or position title.

Staying Safe

If you're worried about revealing too much information, the easiest solution is to create a temporary email address. Create the email address in any free webmail program, using an alias in the Name fields. Don't place any identifying information in the email address itself and leave the signature blank. When selecting a password, choose one that's not the same as other accounts you own. Craigslist also advises that you avoid clicking on any links that come through email, even if they appear to be from Craigslist. Doing so can submit your email address to a phishing scheme.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Smith has been a scientific and engineering writer since 2004. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, newspapers and corporate publications. A frequent traveler, she also has penned articles as a travel writer. Smith has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and writing from Michigan State University.

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