Avoid Scams on Craigslist

Craigslist is known worldwide for its classifieds for just about anything - from toys to furniture. With a few simple clicks and an email address, anyone can post wanted and 'for sale' items. However, everyone needs to be aware and distinguish valid and scam posts in Craigslist.


Spotting suspicious sales

  1. Prioritize posts with pictures over text-only posts. If you are interested in a non-image post or would like more details, contact the poster but do not make any offers until you are fully satisfied. If they don't get back to you, look for something else.
  2. Check whether the seller has downloaded the pictures from the internet. Scammers will often download pictures from the internet to use in their ads. You can use images.google.com to search for this. Copy the link to the image in the add (right click). Go to images.google.com and search for that image url. Check which sites are returned and whether the seller took the picture themselves. If the image is original, then it should not appear on any other website, but if you see ads trying to sell the same object in Russia, Nigeria, etc, then the ad is probably fake.
  3. Have some knowledge of what the item's usual price is. This is more common for renting an apartment or buying a car over Craigslist. If you're not sure, browse through newspaper classifieds, other Craigslist posts, use the Kelley Blue Book for vehicles, or ask friends for a reasonable price range for that specific item.

Making safe payments

  1. Search and browse within your own region. This will give you and the seller the opportunity to meet in person.
  2. Try to exchange in person instead of mailing money. Unlike E-Bay, Craigslist is not responsible for transaction mishaps. This means, if you send money to someone, you can't report it to Craigslist if you don't receive the item that you were paying for. Any reference to Craigslist that says "buyer protection" or "certified seller" is bogus.
  3. Insist on cash. Fake checks and money orders are common, and banks will hold you - not the seller - responsible. Never wire money to anyone under any circumstances. Most payments made by wire transfer are fraudulent.


  • Don't send money through Western Union. Many scams from out of the country will ask for your money that way.
  • If it's too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Don't take the first interesting item as priority; jot it down and browse around.
  • If you have buyers contact you through a service like ListHD, their email will contain the buyer's IP address. This allows you to look up their location to be sure they are nearby.
  • Information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security numbers and other similar numbers should not be given out unless you are positive who will be receiving the information and that it is being transmitted over a secure server. This is important because this information can be used for identity theft or other fraudulent purposes.
  • Many fraudulent ads on Craigslist are simply copied and pasted from elsewhere (eBay). By copying part of the ad and searching through Google you can quickly check to see if the post is one of them.
  • If you don't find anything in your taste, wait until the next day or use another source.


  • When renting an apartment or house, be aware that it is illegal for a landlord to enforce anything above the first month's rent for the security deposit. So if an apartment is going for $1,500 and the first month's rent is higher than that - it's a scam.
  • Sometimes situations will occur where the security deposit required is 1.5 or 2 times the monthly rental. The most common reason this occurs is because of tenants with poor credit reports or spotty rental history. Another reason may be pet damage deposit. A third may be the fist month's rent is "discounted" to entice early occupancy of a new or rehabbed unit.
  • Don't send money out of the area for a security deposit or first month's rent. Meet in person.

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