I’m new to selling things on Craigslist and would like to know what to watch out for as it relates to scammers.
This question was answered on January 21, 2021. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Since its inception in the mid-’90s, Craigslist has been disrupting the traditional ‘classified ad’ model all over the world which used to be the dominion of newspapers.
Its global popularity generates over 50 billion page views a month, which is what attracts so many scammers.
Knowing how scammers respond to ads is helpful for both those posting the ad and for legitimate buyers to avoid looking like a scammer with their inquiries.
Red Flag #1 – Vague Posting
Many of the scams start with a generic inquiry asking if the item is still available or if you are the original owner. The reason for this is to quickly test to see if the seller is responsive.
There’s generally no mention of the item you’re selling or any questions specific to the item.
If you respond, you’ll generally get a more detailed response that I’ll discuss next.
They may also claim not to check their Craigslist messages and ask that you contact them directly via a separate email address.
Red Flag #2 – Out Of Town
If you respond to the vague inquiry, you’ll generally get another response with a detailed story that generally refers to the buyer not being able to come to you but with a strong interest in the item.
It’s even more obvious when they don’t ask any questions or mention the actual item in the post.
Red Flag #3 – No Negotiations
Just about everyone posting an item for sale on Craigslist knows that buyers are typically going to try to negotiate the price.
In fact, if you were to use Craigslist postings as a guide for what something is worth, you’ll probably be overestimating its value.
Scammers want you to get excited about a buyer that’s willing to pay your full asking price for the item.
Red Flag #4 – Offering Extra Money
This one has been around forever and most people have caught on, but they continue to do it because it works in a small number of cases.
They’ll offer to send a cashier’s check with an extra $50 to cover the cost for you to ship the item to them or worse, ask you for your banking information so they can ‘directly deposit’ the amount in your account.
Red Flag #5 – Strange Words or Grammar
Bad grammar is always a red flag on any Internet communication platform as it typically indicates someone in a foreign country. Remember, Craigslist is a local ad platform so having someone from a foreign country responding isn’t normal.
When you see strange words like ‘advert’ instead of advertisement, it’s almost always a tip-off of a scammer. Make sure you thoroughly read through any inquiries paying close attention to the actual words.
It’s a Confidence Game
The success of the scammer depends on building trust with their victims first, which is why you’ll typically get some form of simple vague responses soon after you post your ad.
For a more detailed review of what to watch out for, visit Craigslist’s resources at: https://bit.ly/3o9RAVG
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About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on January 21, 2021
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