Craigslist can be an easy way to buy items you really need and/or want. It can also be an easy (and free) way to sell some of that junk that’s cluttering up your house. But as with any transaction where money exchanges hands, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Here are some scams to look out for when shopping on Craigslist:
Rental Housing Scam
Rental agencies frequently list their available properties on Craigslist. But beware of those listings that look good to be true. Is the rent significantly less than comparable properties? While we were looking for our current rental, we found two different properties listed on Craigslist which were priced lower than similar houses and the only contact was by email. When we drove by the properties we saw “For Sale” signs on the front lawns. Contacting the “seller” returned a form email which stated that they were out of the country on business, please ignore the for sale sign which they had forgotten to have removed before they left, and that if we mailed them the attached application with a cashier’s check for the first month’s rent and security deposit then they would gladly mail us the keys. Needless to say, we did not follow through with either of these listings, except to report them to Craigslist as fraudulent.
Again, many legitimate car lots list their inventory on Craigslist, and so do many honest, hard-working individuals who just want to get the best price for their 1992 Volvo so they can finally invest in a new car. But there are also scammers out there. Unfortunately, our family found this out the hard way. But that’s a story for another day. The most important thing to remember when buying a car from an individual is that they should have a smog certificate for the car dated within the past 90 days. You should also run the Vehicle Identification Number through Carfax or similar to make sure it has a clean title and has it been in any serious accidents. Lastly, I would take a mechanically-minded person along to check for any obvious problems.
In this scam, the buyer promises event tickets, or airline tickets, but what the buyer actually gets are either forgeries or previously used tickets. Remember that airline tickets can only be used by the person whose name is printed on the face of the ticket. For event tickets, ask to see a copy of the seller’s receipt from his or her original purchase verifying that the tickets are for the date and place you were told.
The seller asks you to wire the money (via Western Union or similar) or send a personal check before they will send you the merchandise. Or the buyer wants to pay with a money order or personal check. Transactions should only be paid via cash (make sure you know how to check for counterfeit bills – see Eight Ways to Spot Counterfeit Money for more details.), cashier’s check or Paypal.
Robbery (or worse) Scam
Only meet a seller in a public place. Never enter an unknown seller’s house or allow an unknown buyer to enter your house. ‘Nuff said.