How to Spot a Craigslist Scam

By Techwalla Internet Editor

Thanks to Craigslist.com, selling a car, finding a roommate or getting rid of your kids' old baby clothes is as easy as clicking "post." Best of all, unlike most newspaper classifieds or Ebay.com, it's totally free to post on Craigslist. Unfortunately, as much as sellers love Craigslist, scam artists love it even more. Here's how to tell if a potential buyer is trying to pull a fast one.

Step 1

Type the words "for local pick up only" and "cash only" prominently in your ad--and make no exceptions. This drives away a good share of potential scammers.

Step 2

Delete emails from potential buyers who have lengthy sob stories or complicated explanations of why they need to pay by check or money order. Anyone who says their "secretary" will take care of the transaction because they are in a foreign country or are too busy as a famous archaeologist to make the purchase in person is most likely a fraud.

Step 3

Be aware of scams involving fake checks or money orders. A good fake check or money order can pass through the bank's initial screening process--then, days later, you'll get penalized for trying to cash a counterfeit check. By then, the scammer will be long gone. This is why you want to make your transaction cash only.

Step 4

Familiarize yourself with the Craigslist scam involving a shipper. The buyer will say the product will be picked up by a shipper--and usually also promises to wire you more money than the item actually costs. This is the most common Craigslist trick.

Step 5

Notify the Federal Trade Commission of any attempted or successful scams by calling 877-FTC-HELP.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cash is the best form of currency when selling on Craigslist, but if you really want to accept money in a different form, Paypal.com is a safe bet. This will require the buyer to Paypal you the money either before or after seeing the merchandise, however, unless he uses a computer on the spot when you meet.
  • Never give out any personal financial information to someone who has contacted you through Craigslist.
  • Don't accept Western Union or other wire transfers.