Craigslist Scams to Watch Out For

by Laura-Lee Walker

Craigslist is a vibrant marketplace brimming with deals, but it also has a dark underbelly because it’s a cesspool of scammers wanting your money.

Some of the scams grossing the most money include rental and car buyer and seller scams.

Rental scams

One common rental scam involves con artists duplicating ads for properties and offering them for a lower price. There is usually an excuse why the individual is unable to show the property in person and offers to send photos instead. The prospective tenant is then asked to wire money for the rental.

A second rental scams involves the fraudster getting the would-be tenant to purchase a credit report. The individual thinks they are showing their suitability as a future tenant; however, there isn’t any property to rent and the scammer gets commission from the credit report site.

Another scam involves a “realtor service” company that requires a fee be paid to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties even though the company is not associated to the properties that are listed.

Car scams

There are many different types of car buying and selling scams. One of the more common ones relates to fake funds where the con artist provides fraudulent checks or money orders. Once the car is handed over, the check bounces or turns out to be fraudulent.

Another common scam involves sending a car buyer to an online escrow service to do a “safe transaction”. In reality, the funds are sent to a fake escrow account and the seller walks away with the buyer’s money with no car exchanging hands.

With the volume of scams that Craigslist is host to, it’s impossible to effectively police the website; however, the best defence against being scammed to your educate yourself.

Look for these common red flags to protect you against the vast majority of scams:

  1. Don’t rent or purchase a property without seeing it first. Watch for individuals that give you an excuse why they can’t show you a property, such as because they are doing missionary work outside the country. They may offer to send you photos instead and encourage you to drive by the property.
  1. Don’t offer payment to an individual that you have never seen in person. Don’t fall for sellers that offer to ship you a product. Meet the individual in person before parting with your money.
  1. Don’t wire money to anyone. For example, if someone states that the method of payment they require is via Western Union, you are about to be scammed.
  1. Don’t accept money order or checks (cashier/certified). Banks will cash fraudulent checks and hold you financially responsible.
  1. Never provided financial information or visit third-party sites. Users may require you to provide your bank account, credit card or PayPal account information either directly to them or via a third-party website.
  1. Don’t agree to background or credit checks until you meet the individuals in person. Scammers often get a cut from the credit company or walk away with your private information.

If you think that a Craigslist post is associated with a scam, contact Craigslist. You can also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or, if someone you met, in person defrauds you, contact your local police department.

Laura-Lee is an open-source intelligence analyst at Kusic and Kusic Private Investigators. She specializes in litigation support, background checks, and online investigations.

Photo credit: Flickr

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