How to Identify Scam Buyers on Craigslist

Craigslist offers a free, convenient way to buy and sell merchandise. Unfortunately it can be a hunted ground for scammers who prey on uniformed sellers. If you're planning to post a for-sale ad on Craiglist, be alert for these scammers and be ready to weed them out. You'll be able recognize them if you stay alert for the signs of a scam artist.

Spotting Scam Buyers

Step 1

Be alert for buyers who send generic messages. When a person emails a response to your ad, do they refer specifically to the item or merchanise that you are selling or is the message general? A legitimate buyer will say something like, "I'm interested in the couch that you're selling." A scammer often says. "I am interested in the item you have for sale" without any specific reference.

Step 2

Evaluate email responses for their level of literacy. Many scammers are based overseas, so their English skills are often poor. If a response is riddled with spelling and grammar errors or seems to be written by someone who isn't fluent in English, beware.

Step 3

Only deal with local buyers. If the buyer claims to be in another state or country and wants to buy the item unseen, you're probably dealing with a scammer.

Step 4

Never agree to accept a check for more than your item's purchase price and send the difference back to the buyer. Scammers often send forged checks in payment. They'll claim they were given the check by someone who owes them money. For example, they might send a $1000 check in payment for a $300 item. They'll ask you to cash it and wire $700 back to them. By the time the check is discovered as a fake, your money will be long gone and you'll be liable to your bank.

Step 5

Give as little personal information out to a buyer as possible. If he needs to come see the item, you'll have to give your address. Beyond that, you should never give personal information such as your bank account or social security number even if the buyer claims to need them to make payment. Insist on cash or a check from a local bank instead.

Step 6

If the buyer pays by check, take it to the bank on which it is drawn and cash it there before turning over the item or merchanside. Don't accept a check that isn't drawn on a local bank, and don't complete the sale on a weekend or holiday when you can't cash the check immediately.

Tip

If you've been the victim of a scam, notify the following: Your local police department The Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP

Warning

If you're uncomfortable with a situation, follow your gut and tell the buyer that you're not going to go through with the transaction. You don't owe him any explanation.

If someone is coming to your home to view an item, make sure that you're not alone. Have a friend or other family member present whenever a stranger is coming over.

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