Keys to Spotting Craigslist Scams

By Melissa King

Craigslist's free marketplace is ideal for buying and selling items, hunting for a job and even looking for a date. The ease of posting an ad is what attracts many users to Craigslist, including, unfortunately, people who intend to scam others. Both buyers and sellers can fall victim to a scam, resulting in stolen money, property or personal information. Learn the signs of a fake Craigslist ad so you can protect yourself from unscrupulous scammers.

Step 1

Look for the ad posted in different cities on Craigslist. If you see the identical ad in dozens of different cities, it's probably a scam. Craigslist does not allow users to post identical ads in multiple locations.

Step 2

Read the ad carefully and look for poor grammar or spelling mistakes. A few errors may be normal, but too many might indicate a scam.

Step 3

Search Google for the Craigslist user's company name or website URL if it's provided in the ad. Doing this can reveal problems other people have had with that user or company. Watch out for negative reviews and reports of fraud.

Step 4

Determine how much an item retails for if the price seems too good to be true. For example, if someone is selling a computer for $100, but that same computer normally sells for over $1,000, it's likely a scam.

Step 5

Ask the seller or buyer for contact information. If he refuses to give you a phone number and will only communicate via email, it might be a scam. Likewise, many scammers are reluctant to meet victims in person.

Step 6

Find out the seller's payment method of choice. Most Craigslist sellers accept cash, but scammers prefer to use a wire service, such as Western Union or Moneygram.

Step 7

Avoid long-distance transactions, as most scams feature items or services out of your area. If you must deal long-distance, ask the poster how he wants the items or services delivered. Some scammers will require that you provide a service or send them goods before you've received payment. Such people will say they'll pay you later, but you may never get the money.

Look for a sense of urgency in the user's listing. For example, a seller may pressure you to purchase an item quickly by saying someone else is considering buying it as well. When pressured, you might decide to buy something you would normally not. Sellers who pressure you may also be trying to get rid of a stolen or illegal item before they're caught.