You can buy or sell nearly anything on Craigslist. Every day, new listings are made for cars, appliances, electronics, jewelry, and a wide variety of other items by sellers looking to find local buyers on the easy to use platform. Unfortunately, scammers have also found Craigslist to be a lucrative place to do business. If you are planning on buying or selling on Craigslist, here are five Craigslist red flags to look for in the listing or responses to avoid being scammed.
Red Flag 1 – Misspelled Words and Bad Grammar
Bad grammar, misspelled words, and a general misunderstanding of the English language in listings or in responses is one of the most common Craigslist red flags that indicate a potential scam. Craigslist is a local ad platform meant to bring people from the same area together for transactions, so the language in the ad should be easily understood by the intended parties. Obviously bad grammar and strange words on an internet communication platform can indicate that the person is from a foreign country and is looking to see if anyone will take their bait.
Red Flag 2 – Declining In-person Transactions
Craigslist is a platform designed to connect local buyers and sellers, so if the seller is not local or is not willing to make the transaction in-person, that is a major red flag. Fraudulent sellers and buyers often demand payment via online methods because it is easier to take the money and not go through with their part of the deal. The best way to avoid being scammed is to conduct the transaction in-person in a public place during the day when there are witnesses around. Many local police stations have offered their parking lots as a safe place for making these types of transactions.
Red Flag 3 – Using Stock Images For Listings
If you are buying an item on Craigslist, the listing for the item should contain images of the actual item you are purchasing, not a stock image of the item from the internet. While a stock image might give you a good idea of what the item may look like, it doesn’t show you the condition of the item for sale or, even worse, the seller might not have the item in their possession at all. If you are suspicious that the image used came from the internet, you can do an image search on Google to see where else that particular image has been used.
Red Flag 4 – Unusual Payment Requests
Another entry on the list of Craigslist red flags to look out for is unusual payment requests. Most transactions that are done via Craigslist are cash transactions where the buyer and seller exchange money and item at the same time in a face-to-face transaction. For high-value transactions, a cashier’s check or money order can be acceptable for payment if you are willing to go with the buyer to their bank and witness it being issued. Asking for wire transfers via Western Union or MoneyGram or electronic transfers through services like Zelle makes it easy for scammers to steal your money without providing anything in return. Insisting on using a personal check, requests for partial payments, or paying more than the agreed amount are also red flags that the other party has nefarious intentions.
Red Flag 5 – Vague or Misleading Information
Communication is key when doing business via an online platform like Craigslist, so if the other party gives vague information or is unresponsive to communication, it is best to move on. You should also watch out for misleading information that doesn’t clearly describe the item you intend to purchase, where the item is located, or how the transaction should be conducted. If the listing or response just generally refers to “the item” or “your area,” it can be an indication that the person is fishing for victims using mass postings and mass responses.
Craigslist Red Flags Are Often Obvious
These are the top five Craigslist red flags to look out for before buying or selling any item on the platform. According to published reports, looking out for these five red flags can help you avoid nearly every scammer operating on the platform. And always remember, if a deal appears too good to be true, then it is probably a scam.
Have you fallen victim to a Craigslist scam or have any advice to offer on how to avoid scammers? Tell us your story.
Toi Williams began her writing career in 2003 as a copywriter and editor and has authored hundreds of articles on numerous topics for a wide variety of companies. During her professional experience in the fields of Finance, Real Estate, and Law, she has obtained a broad understanding of these industries and brings this knowledge to her work as a writer.