Craigslist Scams

Unfortunately, not everyone on Craigslist buys or sells with honest intentions.  Craigslist is, after all, only a website for posting advertisements, and is not a full-fledged e-commerce website (such as Amazon or eBay).  Therefore, it takes a rather hands-off approach to business deals, leaving them up to the buying and selling parties involved to work things out.  This, sadly, makes scams and other fraudulent activity easier through Craigslist than through more conventional shopping websites.

Fortunately, if you know what to look for, you can avoid most scammers and only deal with people who are looking to buy or sell fairly.  Below are some common types of scams on Craigslist, along with how they work and/or why they’re likely scams.  We’ll then recap with some general tips for avoiding scams on Craigslist.

Some general tips for identifying and avoiding scams (over email) are also available in our Phishing Scams and Advance-Fee Fraud articles.

Common Craigslist scams

Craigslist verification scam

HOW IT WORKS: A buyer or seller will tell you that Craigslist or some other third party has certified them as a legitimate businessperson, or will handle and/or otherwise guarantee or protect your transaction.  They will usually send you a fake (but official-looking) email from Craigslist or their alleged third party to this effect.

WHY IT’S (LIKELY) A SCAM: None of these third-party certifications mean anything on Craigslist.  Transactions are intended to be between buyers and sellers only; the other person shouldn’t need anyone else’s guarantee for you to trust that they’re dealing fairly.  In addition, many third-party online “escrow” services that process payments and hold on to money for people making transactions are run by scammers.

Craigslist check scam

HOW IT WORKS: A person looking to buy/rent an item from you or hire your services sends you an email or text message with an advance cashier’s check or money order.  Usually, it will be made out for much more than your item or contract is worth; the person may say that this is a show of trust in you, and that they expect you to wire a money order equal to the difference back to them.  They may even ask for your personal information so that they know who to make the check out to.

WHY IT’S (LIKELY) A SCAM: If a person sends you a check or money order worth much more than what you’re selling, that’s a major red flag that a deal is too good to be true.  The fact that they ask for money back means that the check or money order will almost always be fake.  Not only will this let the person basically steal your money, but it also may get you in trouble with the law, as the bank will hold YOU responsible for trying to cash a fake check.  Also, it is almost never a good idea to send out personal information over email, especially to someone whom you barely know or have never met in person.

Craigslist money order scam

HOW IT WORKS: A person looking to sell or rent you an expensive item asks you to wire a money order to them in order to pay for it.  They may claim that they are “travelling” or “relocating” and thus cannot meet with you in person or over the phone to discuss or complete the transaction.  They may also (falsely) claim that you need to provide them with a confirmation code so that they can accept the money from you.

WHY IT’S (LIKELY) A SCAM: Almost everyone on Craigslist who asks you to pay for items through money orders is a scammer.  In addition, scammers like to operate through emails and texts; they will try to avoid meeting you in person or talking to you over the phone.  These latter types of communication are more nuanced and make it easier to tell if someone isn’t who they say they are, or is otherwise being dishonest with you.

Craigslist advance fee scam

HOW IT WORKS: A person selling you an item (or items) asks you to pay a portion of the selling price upfront.  To put pressure on you to do so, they may also claim that they have already shipped the items that you want to purchase.

WHY IT’S (LIKELY) A SCAM: Again, this is a tactic commonly used by scammers to avoid doing business with you through a more personal form of communication (such as over the phone or face-to-face), where you can more easily tell whether they’re lying or not.  It also may be a strategy for pressuring you into making payments over services that are unsafe, such as money orders (as we mentioned above).

Craigslist job scam

HOW IT WORKS: A person may post an advertisement or send you an email offering a job at (or as) an “escrow” service.  That is, they will claim that they cannot receive payments from their customers directly, and require you to accept payments and then wire them the money that you receive.  They will also often offer you a percentage of each payment that you process as a commission.

WHY IT’S (LIKELY) A SCAM: As with Craigslist check scams, in a setup where you’re given (extra) money and then asked to send it somewhere else, the payments you receive will almost always be fake.  In addition, these setups often pressure you to make unverified money order payments.  So, you’re basically just giving your money away to strangers.

How to avoid Craigslist scams

The following are some brief tips on how to not get caught in scams on Craigslist.  We have more thorough explanations of these tips in our Is Craigslist Safe article.

  • Never deal with people who have to ship items to you or otherwise refuse to meet you in person; deal with people face-to-face in cities or areas close to you that you know well.

  • Never purchase an item or rent a property until you’ve seen what it looks like in person, and never pay in advance.

  • Never accept cashier’s checks or money orders from potential buyers, and never send either of these things to sellers as payment.

  • Never accept a transaction that has to be “guaranteed” by a third party; this is meaningless on Craigslist.

  • Never give out or permit access to your personal information over email, including your banking, credit card, social security, or background details.

One last piece of advice that we’ll give is that if you think that someone is trying to scam you or anyone else on Craigslist, contact Craigslist and report them.  (See our How to Contact Craigslist tutorial for instructions on how to do that).  Also, depending on how deep you are into the transaction, you may want to contact your local police department, or even a regional or national anti-fraud bureau.

 

That’s our advice on how to spot and avoid Craigslist scams!  We hope that it helps keep you safe when using Craigslist!


How to Contact Craigslist + 5 Customer Service Tips

Are you having a problem with using a part of Craigslist, or see something sketchy on Craigslist that you feel you should report? The easiest way to get in touch with Craigslist is by filling out a contact form on their website.

To contact Craigslist customer service:

  1. Go to www.craigslist.org in your web browser (which will take you to the sub-site for your local area or city). Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click Help.

    Craigslist Help button
     

  2. Scroll to the “Miscellaneous” section at the bottom of the screen, and click Contact Us.

    Craigslist Contact Us button
     

  3. To help Craigslist more easily categorize and understand your issue, you must choose a reason why you want to contact them.  Some options (such as the one in this example) have sub-issues that you can select, which will prompt Craigslist to give you suggestions on how to fix them (or at least where to look for help).

    If you still need help and need to contact Craigslist directly, click Contact Us.

    Common issue categories
     

  4. A contact form will appear, allowing you to submit your inquiry to Craigslist.

    Craigslist contact form

    Click in each of the text boxes here (from top to bottom) and type in:

    — Your name
    — Your (Craigslist account) email address
    — The specific topic that you want Craigslist to address
    — Details explaining the specific issue that you are having

    NOTE: For some options, you may have to input additional information, such as ID numbers for specific advertisements posted on Craigslist.

    When you’re done, click Send Message.

Watch your email for a response, and work it out from there! If this method doesn’t work out for you, there are other ways to get in touch with Craigslist. Here are a couple other methods you can try.

Other ways to contact Craigslist

While the on-site contact forms are the preferred way to get in contact with Craigslist, there are other avenues that you can try.

How to email Craigslist

You may be able to reach Craigslist customer service by sending an email to help@craigslist.org.

Craigslist phone number

Craigslist’s customer service department can be reached by phone, toll-free, at 800-664-0633.

Now that we’ve told you about all the ways you can contact Craigslist customer support, here are a few tips that may help you out as well.

5 helpful tips for contacting Craigslist

1. Try getting in touch with the seller/poster of the ad first.

If you’re having an issue with something you purchased from Craigslist, try getting in touch with the person who sold it to you before you contact Craigslist directly. See if you can come to an agreement or work things out with the seller first.

2. Be patient while trying to get your problem solved.

Millions of people use Craigslist, and tons of people have questions just like you – so it can take a while to hear back from their customer service team. Try your best to be patient when waiting for a response from them, and look into other ways you may be able to solve the issue yourself if it’s taking too long to hear from them.

3. Check out the Craigslist “help desk” forums for answers.

If you’re having an issue with Craigslist, it’s possible that another user has had the same issue before and may be able to help you solve it. Check out the help desk forums on Craigslist to read questions and replies other people have posted, or ask a question yourself if you can’t find the answer there already.

4. Look through the FAQ section.

Going along with our last tip, we’d recommend checking out the Craigslist FAQ (frequently asked questions) section to see if you can find information that could help you solve your issue. You can find the FAQ page for Craigslist here.

5. Contact your local authorities if necessary, and you can’t get a solution to your issue.

If the issue you’re having with Craigslist escalates to being a serious problem, don’t hesitate to contact your local authorities. The police may be able to help if you’ve been scammed or if someone is harassing you through Craigslist.

 

We hope that you’re able to get in touch with Craigslist and resolve your problem! If you feel like the site just isn’t for you anymore, check out some of our favorite Craigslist alternatives that might focus more on customer service. In our next article, we’ll tell you about many common scams that occur on Craigslist, for both buyers and sellers, and how you can avoid falling victim to them.


Craigslist Search

If you don’t want to browse through hundreds of advertisements on Craigslist, trying to find the perfect item to buy, then you can narrow down your choices with a search.

Note that Craigslist only allows you to search for items advertised on your local sub-site, as well as on a handful of sub-sites in the surrounding area.  However, we’ll show you how to search Craigslist over a broader area in our Craigslist Search Engines tutorial.

How to search Craigslist

  1. Go to www.craigslist.org in your web browser, which will take you to your local sub-site.  Click in the box labelled “Search Craigslist”, and type in the terms that you wish to search for.

    As you type, Craigslist will show you the number of posts in certain categories that include your search terms.  Click on one to automatically search in that category, or press the “Enter” key to search in all categories.

  2. By default, Craigslist will show you results in the “For Sale” category (unless you picked a different category from the search suggestions).  You can click the drop-down menus in the top-left corner to change (from left-to-right):

    — The sub-site of Craigslist that you’re searching
    — The category of advertisements that you’re searching
    — The type of advertisements that you’re searching

  3. The options on the left side of the screen let you narrow down details about what exactly you’re looking for.

    For example, the top options allow you to select which type of advertisements within your chosen category that you see.  Click the check boxes beside one or more types to select or deselect them; click Show More to see more types, or click Select/Deselect All to select or deselect all types at once.  Then click Search at the bottom of the panel to update your search.

    You can click one of the buttons further down to see All advertisements, ads By Owner (i.e. private individuals), or ads By Dealer (i.e. licensed corporate sellers).

    The check boxes below this let you search for advertisements:

    — Whose titles contain your search terms (as opposed to their descriptions)
    — That have images associated with them
    — That were posted today
    — That are from sub-sites for cities and areas close to your current one

    Below that, you can click in the boxes labelled “Min” and/or “Max” and type in a minimum and/or maximum price that you want to pay for an item.  Then click Search at the bottom of the panel.

    There may be more or different filtering options, depending on what kind of advertisements you’re looking for.  In any event, click Reset to remove all of your filters.

  4. In the upper-left, you can click in the box with your search terms in it and type in new terms to do a new search (click the magnifying glass or press the “Enter” key to initiate it).

    Below and to the left, you can click one of the buttons to view your results as a list, a list with thumbnail images, a gallery of photos, or a map showing where your results are located.

    Below and to the right, you will see how many results you have, based on your current parameters (note that this doesn’t include any results that Craigslist shows you from nearby areas, unless you have specifically asked to see them).

    If you have a lot of results, click (from right-to-left) Next to view the next 100 results, click the total number to go to the last page of results, click Prev to view the previous 100 results, or click the double arrow to go back to the first page of results.

  5. In the upper-right, click Save Search to save the current parameters of this search, so that you can re-run it quickly from your Craigslist account.  Or, click Email Alert to save this search and receive email updates when new advertisements are posted that match your search criteria.

    You can also click the buttons below these options to sort your results; options may differ depending on what category of advertisements you’re searching for.  For example, the “For Sale” category allows you to sort your results based on (from left to right):

    — How recently the advertisements were posted
    — How closely the advertisements match your search terms
    — The price of the items, from least expensive to most expensive
    — The price of the items, from most expensive to least expensive

  6. If you’re interested in a listing, click on its name (highlighted in blue).  Click the star next to it to add or remove it to your “Favourites” list, which will allow you to keep an eye on it.  This may be useful for referencing the seller’s contact information quickly, or tracking an item that you may want to buy at some point (but not right now).  Or, you can click the “X” in a listing to hide it if you don’t want to see it.

Those are the ins and outs of searching on Craigslist!