Look Out for Craigslist Scams

Published on February 5th, 2014

The Internet has made life more convenient when buying or selling cars, furniture, putting an apartment up for rent, and much more. The first place most people go? Probably Craigslist, or another similar classified advertisement website. While these sites make things easier for you, they also makes it easier for scammers to take advantage of you. You don’t have to give up using these sites altogether, but you should know what to look out for.


  1. The Popular Home or Apartment

In this particular scam, “landlords” list a home or apartment at an unbelievably low price. The listing will feature photographs of a great-looking place with all desired amenities. Dozens of people respond in hopes to get the place before anyone else – this “landlord” will collect deposits and first and last month’s rent from all of these unsuspecting people before skipping town.

The problem is not noticed until the renters all try to move in and discover it was never the said landlord’s property to rent in the first place.

  1. The Middleman

The story is that the homeowner or leaser is sick, out of the country or somehow unavailable, and his or her “friend” is helping out by renting their place. Renters never come into contact with the actual property owner, because the actual property owner has no idea this is occurring.

This scam generally targets people relocating to a new city who can’t physically tour the property and don’t know the area well enough to determine the place isn’t located there.

  1. Over-anxious Renter

These scams target landlords rather than renters. A person will agree to rent a house or apartment and send the landlord a check or money order for all required fees. After the check is sent, he or she will call the landlord claiming they accidentally sent more than they were supposed to, and that they are now in a financial bind. The landlord then wires the difference right away, not aware that the check or money order sent to them originally is no good.

Tips to avoid these scams:

  • Do your research and be sure the claimed landlord actually owns the property. Call the related property management company to confirm all information is correct.
  • Get a copy of the landlord’s identification and call the local authorities to make sure it’s legitimate.
  • Do an online search of the landlord’s name as well as the address of the home you are considering renting. If a scam has occurred in the past, you will likely find this information.
  • If the person you are dealing with doesn’t ask for an application or information for a background check, it is likely a scammer. These people will make the renting process easier for you so they get their money faster.
  • Don’t allow any renters overpay you, and if they do, do not release any funds until their check clears.
  • If you’re a landlord, check references, credit reports, criminal histories and employers before offering a lease.


  1. Fake Funds

Con artists are experts at producing fraudulent checks and money orders. Some car owners have found this out after selling their car to such a person, only to find the check bounce or come back as a fraud. The seller has lost their car with no way to trace the buyer’s location. In another case, just like the housing scam, a buyer will send a check before realizing they paid too much, and ask the seller to send them the difference.

  1. The Out-of-Town Seller

Some sellers list a car at an unbelievable price and tell a sob story to go with it, such as a divorce or a transfer overseas where they cannot afford to have the car shipped. Whatever the story, it justifies the low price to the buyer, who thinks he or she is getting a great deal. Since the seller is away, the buyer has to wire the funds, later discovering the car is nowhere to be found and the seller has disappeared.

  1. The Safe Deal

If a con artist senses the buyer’s hesitation about wiring money for a car, they may offer to do a safe transaction utilizing a company like or another online escrow service. They will tell the buyer to send funds via Western Union to the escrow account where they will be held until the buyer picks up a car.

Nothing wrong with that right? Wrong! The problem arises when an email mimicking a legitimate site is sent to the buyer from the supposedly secure escrow site. The funds then aren’t routed to the legitimate account, but rather a fake one. The seller is never heard from again.

Tips to avoid these scams:

  • If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The way con artists lure people into the scam is by offering irresistible deals.
  • If you can’t meet with the buyer or seller in person for any reason, be extremely cautious.
  • Don’t agree to use an escrow service of their choosing.
  • If there is an urgency to the transaction, don’t buy into it.
  • If the only contact information you have for a buyer or seller is their email address, DO NOT purchase or sell a car to them.


  1. Fake Tickets

Scammers will print out their own event tickets that look like the real thing and sell them to unsuspecting buyers. Depending on the event, these tickets can cost hundreds of dollars, maybe even more. Some will sell complete season tickets for a sports team or concert season.

  1. Selling Canceled Tickets

The seller will buy airline tickets with a credit card, then list the tickets for sale. As soon as they have a buyer, they will cancel the sale which renders the tickets worthless. The buyer believes he or she has a legitimate ticket until they show up at the airport and are told the tickets were canceled. Since the tickets were not bought through the airline, there is really nothing that can be done.

Tips to avoid these scams:

  • Know what you’re buying. Every ticket looks different and not all scammers have the capability to print out an exact replica. Know what the ticket should look like, as well as the seating plan so you can check if the ticket has the right seat numbers on it.
  • Ask for a receipt or invoice. If the seller can’t or won’t offer proof that the tickets were bought, then he or she probably never did. Call the event’s ticket seller and make sure the tickets were paid for.
  • Verify the seller. When a person buys season tickets, they will be assigned an account number that should match their name. Ask the seller for this information and then call the vendor to confirm the account.
  • If you are buying the tickets through the mail, take additional steps. Don’t pay the entire amount upfront, but offer to pay half before the tickets are mailed and half after you receive them. Put everything in writing via email, including the seller’s contact information and details of the transaction. Ask that the tickets be sent with a tracking number.


Courtesy of Money Crashers

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