How to Avoid PayPal and Craigslist Scams

By Colby Phillips

Spend enough time on the Internet and getting targeted by scammers is inevitable. But you don't have to fall for their tricks. Stay safe from thieves, spam-bots and hackers by sticking to a few easy-to-follow guidelines.

Step 1

Pay attention to language that sounds formulaic and repetitive when browsing Craigslist. Real job posts will state the name of the company and provide legitimate contact information, such as a website and phone number that you can use to verify the company's authenticity. Poor spelling and punctuation are often tip-offs. If you come across a phrase that sounds fake, do a quick Internet search–the spammer has probably used it more than once. Avoid offers from individuals claiming to be desperate or implausibly endowed with wealth, fame, etc. Never respond to requests to wire money, especially to someone in another country. (See References 1) It goes without saying that anything that sounds too good (or bad) to be true almost certainly is.

Step 2

Be on the look out for email scams. Scammers will often send emails falsely claiming to be contacting you from PayPal. (See References 2) These may contain requests for you to provide personal information (password, credit card, Social Security number, etc.) or contain instructions to download an attachment. They may also contain a link that, if you click on it, will take you to a fake version of the site where your personal data can be stolen. To avoid this, make sure that when navigating to PayPal you always open a new tab or page in your browser and type in the URL yourself.

Step 3

Use the security functions on your browser to verify that the sites you visit have active certification and that they use up-to-date encryption software. For instance, on Mozilla's FireFox, verified websites are marked in the address bar by green highlight. Clicking on the highlight will give you more information about the site and the company running it, i.e., “You are connected to which is run by PayPal, Inc.” You should also note that PayPal's website is always preceded in the address bar by "https" which indicates secure socket layer encryption.