10 Tips to Avoid Scams on Craigslist

Most of us are aware of the ever-growing Web site called Craigslist. People can post job openings, search for jobs, search for and sell vehicles, sell and purchase most any types of items, place personal ads and even barter old stuff for new stuff. There are, however, some things you have to be weary of when conducting business or applying for jobs through this site. Recently, I have applied for several jobs and sold a car via Craigslist and have become aware of several scams out there. Because Craigslist is free to post and free to surf, it is an excellent location for scammers to conduct their own business.

As with anything done online, it is very important we limit our information given out to people we do not know. There are other scams out there we may not be fully aware of. Below are 10 tips to avoiding scams on Craigslist and can be applied to other websites as well.

1.) Do not click on Web addresses within e-mail.

While applying for some positions I have seen online, I have received replies from people containing web links. The emails requested I use the link to fill out their online application. At first, I tried a couple of these, but everyone requested I sign up for an account, and there was never really any questions related at all to my job qualifications. They wanted personal information, name, age, sex, etc. None asked for my social security number, however, I did have one asking for my driver’s license number and state issue, which I didn’t give and it would not allow me to continue the “application process” until this information was given. Ultimately, I never received anything further about jobs from these sites, other than a full spam box. It is very important you keep your information to yourself. REAL jobs will request an interview and ask for your personal information upon hire for the position or it will be discussed in the email.

Work-at-home positions will be the same way. They want you to sign up for their website and get pennies for viewing email. These CAN work; however, it takes months of constant attention to these e-mails before you benefit a few dollars from your efforts. And some of them even require a minimum account balance before they will pay you, which take a very long time to achieve. If you really want to give these a try, be sure you read all the small print and all the user agreement information before committing to anything. My opinion, don’t waist your time!

Worst case scenario, your email will be phished. Once you click on the link, you are taken to a site, usually some bogus site. After clicking on one of these, my email would not work correctly at all. It was like it was being registered as being spam and would not allow me to send out any emails. I was able to receive emails, but was not able to send them out. The email address I was using was one set up specifically for sending and receiving job information, thus my address book contained information and addresses for potential jobs and previous jobs. They began receiving emails from me I did not send, for drugs and other spam emails. Result: I had to completely cancel my email address.

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If you must click on these links, be sure to right click on your mouse and then open in a new window, it may reduce the chance your email address gets phished.

2.) Don’t post your resume on Craigslist.

We all want to get the most exposure when we are searching for a job, especially when it is important to find a new job quickly. None-the-less, resist the urge to post your resume directly to the website. Because Craigslist is free to everyone, anyone can steal your information. Apply to jobs directly, individually, even though it is time consuming and frustrating at times.

3.) Don’t use your e-mail within a Craigslist posting.

Spammers use these sites to create mailing lists and then flood your email with tons of crap you don’t want, a mistake I personally discovered. Some of the emails will even have the title of your posting, attempting to get your attention in order to scam you out of money. Craigslist can give you an anonymous email address and send your email a notice whenever you receive a response to your post, keeping your personal email personal.

4.) Don’t accept checks or money orders from anyone.

If you are planning to sell something, be sure to list your posting as a cash only transaction, even if the item is worth a lot of money (if they have the money in the bank to write you a check or to purchase a money order, then they can get the cash). I learned this when I posted a vehicle of ours for sale. I began receiving tons of emails from spammers (from my address being placed directly into the posting) telling me they were interested in my ‘item’. The emails always referred to my vehicle as an ‘item’, which made me wonder about it from the start. I corresponded with a couple of these spammers and they were real people, responding directly to what I had sent them. Then they began telling me they had a ‘business’ check or a money order that would be over the amount of the item and requested I cash the check, they would have someone come get the item, then I was to send them the remainder of the money. These are completely fake! Craigslist even mentions these types of scams upon listing an item, saying the checks and money orders will clear fine, however, when the check comes back as being stolen, the casher (you) is then responsible for the money.

Even if you have a pricey item for sale, remember, if the people actually have the money to purchase what you are selling, they will have no problem providing cash. Do not show sympathy when potential buyers meet up with you and don’t have cash, if they don’t have the cash, it’s a NO SALE!!

5.) Do not sell a vehicle without a notary.

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Be sure to get vehicle transfers notarized. Most banks will do this for their members free of charge or with only a minimal fee. Yes, you can sign the back of the title and the other person can take care of it, however, if they don’t transfer the vehicle into their name and something happens to the vehicle or they hit someone taking it home, then YOU will be held responsible. Also, if they do not transfer the vehicle out of your name, when the next year’s taxes on the vehicle come due, you will be responsible for them, even if you sold the vehicle and don’t have it any more.

6.) Don’t send money for an item/vehicle you have not seen.

Some scammers prey on your need for a specific item or even a car and want you to ‘secure’ your sale by sending them a holding fee through PayPal or some other way of payment. Once these people get the money, that’s it, your money is gone. Most likely there is no item; they were just using a posting with a picture of a random item to snag your interest. Ask to see the item before committing to any money transfers, if they continue with their attempts to obtain money from you, go on to another seller. A real seller will understand your desire to see the item before commitment.

7.) Do not take your item to someone’s home.

While attempting to sell my vehicle, I had one request asking me to bring the vehicle to him as his wife just had back surgery and could not tolerate long trips. This would be somewhat believable, however, it falls squarely under the “not your problem” category. If someone truly wants your item, they will find a way to meet up with you. The person told me where he lived and it was not anything near what I would consider to be a lengthy trip. They were approximately 15-20 miles away. This immediately raised a red flag, not to mention he specifically discussed how great his neighborhood was, and that there were no ‘hoodlums’ around. This whole situation didn’t seem comfortable to me at all. I didn’t have any means to take the vehicle there and be picked up anyway, but the whole idea of going into an unfamiliar neighborhood, and with my children to boot, just didn’t feel right to me.

Use your best judgment in these circumstances. If something doesn’t feel right about the transaction, listen to your gut feeling and don’t go along with it. Make other arrangements for the transaction if the person is truly interested. If nothing else, take friends or family members with you. Never go into an unfamiliar area by yourself. The more people you bring, the more likely you are to detour anything from happening to you. Better yet, have the seller/buyer meet you in a neutral location such as the mall, local convenient store or fast food chain. This puts you in a sort of ‘safety zone’ and may also be a deterrent for would be criminals.

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8.) Ask questions to determine validity of the other party.

Whether you are buying, selling or trading, be sure to ask plenty of questions. You know what the person has listed on the description of their item, but ask if there is any other information or even pictures they can offer about the item. Be weary of people who are unwilling or seem unable to give more information.

9.) Do not purchase items that have no pictures.

Be extremely cautious about purchasing an item with no pictures. Occasionally sellers will give pictures to those who specifically ask. If you are interested in the item and there are no pictures available, ask the seller to please send you some to help with your decision to buy. People who have no pictures and refuse to send any may be hiding something. The item may not be in as good of condition as they have made it out to sound. Maybe they do not have a camera, which is understandable. Ask when is a good time for you to view the sale item and if they still refuse, refrain from this purchase; it may be a hoax. In order to make sure you don’t get stuck with a damaged or poor condition item, be sure not to purchase without at least seeing it first.

10.) Make sure you trade evenly.

Craigslist offers the opportunity for people to trade something they no longer need or want for something they do. Rather than selling or buying, sometimes you may find what you need and be able to trade for it for something you have. Again, not to sound repetitive, but be sure you see the item before making a trade. You don’t want to trade something new for something old, broken, or worn out unless you had prior knowledge of the item’s condition. Make sure the items are of equal value or at the very least that both parties are comfortable with the trade. Not every barder will be exactly equal. As long as both parties are happy with the trade, then it is acceptable for the items to be of lesser value.

**Craigslist is a wonderful place to find a lot of things you need and a few things you may not, but the overall experience and the concept of it are very good. Just be sure you really think things through before committing to anything. Keep your personal information to yourself. Nobody on the site needs your personal information to sell you an item or to purchase an item from you. Use your best judgment on things. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t feel obligated to follow through on a sale/purchase.