4 Common Craigslist Scams to be Aware of

Craigslist can be a great marketplace to find everything from tickets to concerts to your next apartment. However, Craigslist is similar to other sites in that you have to use your discernment when contacting/doing business with others online.

Because it's so easy to post ads on Craigslist, it can make you become susceptible to some of the more common scams that happen on the site. Here is a closer look at the most prevalent scams and ways you can avoid them.

1. Ticket Selling/Buying Scams

If you want a last minute ticket to a sporting event, concert or even airline ticket, Craigslist can be a great place to turn, as sellers want to unload tickets they won't use. Similar to renting an apartment or buying a car, there are plenty of scammers who want to take advantage of you. Below is a look at the tools of their trade.

Fake Tickets

Scammers are hoping people are so desperate to attend events they'll be enticed by the opportunity to purchase tickets. What happens then is they will design and print out tickets that mirror real ones but in reality are fake. You can see where this goes: you buy the tickets, try to attend the event and then discover the tickets are fake. In some instances, this can set you back as much as thousands of dollars.

There are several tricks you can do to ensure this doesn't happen to you. First, you should gain a familiarity with what the actual tickets look like. Venues make each event ticket look different, so if you buy from a seller for multiple events it should reflect that. You can also see if the seating chart for the event matches the tickets they are trying to sell you.

Two, you need to request a receipt from the buyer for the original purchase. If they are unwilling to provide you with one then how do you know they bought them in the first place? If they are willing to give you a receipt your next step should be to contact the venue to verify the seller paid for the tickets--this is especially important in multiple-event instances, where a seller will unload a few real tickets, then sprinkle in some fakes or unpaid ones too.

Buying Canceled Tickets

As previously mentioned, Craigslist can be a good place to buy airline tickets a seller won't be able to use anymore. With that said, some sellers will try to con buyers by purchasing the airline tickets with their credit cards then canceling them. Next, they will sell the tickets to the unsuspecting buyer, who will only find out at the airport the tickets are no good.

This is a scam with far-reaching financial consequences because not only did you pay for canceled tickets, chances are you made hotel reservations for your destination city and more.

To help you avoid this costly mistake, contact the airline at the time of purchase and ask them to verify if the ticket is active. Since this is your only recourse to protecting yourself, it is worth a few minutes of investigation, as it can save you up to thousands of dollars.

4 Common Craigslist Scams to be Aware of

2. Selling/Buying a Car on Craigslist

It might surprise you to know Craigslist can be a good website to find your next set of wheels or to sell your car. Some people prefer to buy from private sellers, as you can save more money than opting to do business with a car dealer. Still, because the marketplace is so large, there are sharks out there that want to take advantage of you. Here are some of the more common car scams on Craigslist.

Unverified Funds from Private Buyers

Say you have a car you want to sell so you post it on Craigslist. A prospective buyer contacts you, asking if they can pay by cashier's check, money order or personal check. However, there are many scammers who have become experts at producing fraudulent methods of payment such as doctoring a money order or writing a check on a bad account. Compounding matters is when you meet with the buyer, they provide you with a payment then you release the title. You deposit the check at your bank only to learn later it isn't good. Now, you are out a car and have received no compensation for it.

To mitigate this from occurring, have the buyer meet at your bank. There, they can verify if the payment is legit. To add legitimacy to the transaction, you should request the buyer's name, address and phone number. If they are unwilling to give these details, it signifies they might be trying to scam you.

Sellers Who Are Out of Town

If you are looking to buy a car, you might come across ads where there's an unbelievable price for a good model. When you contact the buyer, they might have some story such as they can't meet locally due to family issues, but if you wire them the money for the car they will release the ownership rights to you. There are two red flags with this situation.

First, if a deal is too good to be true, chances are it's a scam. To demonstrate, if someone is selling a vehicle for thousands under its Blue Book Value there is obviously something awry with the situation. Two, if they cannot meet you in person, yet they want you to wire the money, what guarantee do you have they will give you the car once you make payment?

Sometimes, scammers are privy to buyers' concerns, so they will try to allay your fears by offering you to send payment to an escrow service. The problem is many thieves have become adept at setting up sites that mirror escrow services, so when you send the payment it doesn't go to a legit servicer, it goes to a fake one the seller set up. Therefore, it is best to proceed with caution as it concerns buying a car from an out of town own seller.

3. Rental Scams for Apartments and Homes

Craigslist can be an excellent place to find a good home or apartment to rent. However, there are many scammers out there who want to take advantage of you, so separating the legit landlords from the phonies requires you to be on alert. These are the common scams people try to pull:

The Over-Paying Renter

How this works is say you are wanting to rent out a room or one of your apartments or homes. You'll receive an email from someone out of the country, who says they want the place and they can mail you a check. The only problem being is when you receive the check in the mail, it is normally for some random amount that often exceeds what you asked for in rent. Then, you'll receive a follow-up email from them saying they realized they overpaid and that it's placed them in a financial bind, so they'll ask you to wire the extra funds back to them.

This, obviously, is a big red flag. What the scammers hope you don't see is the check is bad. So, if you send the excess funds back, they make money while you lose money when the bank returns the check. If someone responds to your ad and tries this play, you know it isn't legit.

The Hidden Gem

Say you are looking for a place to rent and come across this beautiful house that is much less than market prices dictate. The ad comes with a bunch of pictures, touting its quality and desirable location. All you need to make this yours is a security deposit, which often is the first and last month of rent. On a whim, you decide to do it, and then the landlord leaves town, scamming as many people as he or she can before doing so.

To prevent this from occurring, you can contact the property management company to see if the person owns the condo or apartment. Concerning homes, you can search property records. If names don't check out with the records, then you know it's a scam.

Another way you can protect yourself if by Googling the name of the owner or the address of the place you want to rent. Often, if others have been scammed, you are likely to find this information online.

Lastly, if the landlord doesn't request a rental application or doesn't conduct a background check that should draw concerns. Reputable landlords want to protect themselves in the event a tenant causes damage to the property or doesn't fulfill the rental obligations. Therefore, if you find a place and the landlord doesn't require an application that should serve as a warning sign they might not be legit.

4. Employment Scams

Along with being a thriving marketplace, you might be surprised to find Craigslist to be the next source for landing your dream job. There are plenty of employment scams to be mindful of, however; so keep these things in mind when looking for your next job.

The Receiving Payments Job

With this scam, a prospective employer will contact you asking if you would mind receiving payments from its customers due to a banking issue on the employer's part. What happens then is they promise you a cut of each deposit--normally specified by a percentage--then you wire the rest to the employer. Of course, if you comply with their request, you might receive payments, but they will be fraudulent, so they will bounce, meaning you won't be able to recover any money you sent to them. This has so many red flags, so let's get into them.

First, if an employer is having banking issues, why would you want to work for them? This doesn't inspire any confidence they would be able to pay you punctually. Two, if they were having banking issues, why are they asking you to wire them money?

While it's understandable to have the impulse to try it if you need work desperately it's more important to ask questions like these, as they can steer you away from being scammed.

The Babysitter Scam

This scam will start out with an ad talking about a new family moving to town who needs a good babysitter. The ad promises a reasonable salary and working conditions, making it enticing to those who need the job the most. After they hire you, they will mail you a check with instructions on what to do with it. Often this concerns buying groceries or other items for the new place and paying the landlord.

You can see the pattern here. First, the check they sent you will bounce, meaning if you sent a check to the "landlord" you are now out that money. This is an unfortunate circumstance that targets those who really need good work.

However, you can reduce the chances of this happening to you the following ways:

  • If they are unable to meet in person, ask for personal details such as their name, the new address, and a phone number. Since they are your employers, they should be able to furnish this information.
  • Next, if they supply that information, Google them to see if there are any scams affiliated with their names or addresses. There's a good chance the potential scammer you might be dealing with has done this before, and if they have been successful with it there might be documented cases online.
  • If they ask you to mail a check to the landlord, walk away. If they have the ability to mail you a check, they can do the same for a landlord.

Freelance Scams

Many writers, artists, and others in the creative field look to Craigslist for work, as this site is a great way to pick up freelance projects. At the same time, there are sadly companies looking to take advantage of this.

How this works is normally they will start out legitimate, asking for your resume and cover letter. In a follow-up email, they will express interest in you, but will then request a sample to ensure you can follow instructions. This isn't uncommon, as even reputable companies will ask for this information. However, if you send the work and never hear from them again, it can be unnerving because they might take your work and use it as their own.

To prevent this from occurring, you can use watermarks on your artwork, copyright anything you send them or do both. If a company responds, asking you to remove the watermark of your name and date on the artwork, story, etc, and they don't want to pay you for it, move on. After all, reputable companies understand artists' concerns, as many will ask for links to your portfolio instead of free samples. You can also ask that point of contact for their name and title in the company, then Google the information provided. If it doesn't match, then it is best to move on to the next search.

These four examples of common Craigslist scams have a similar pattern of behavior. By taking a step back and asking the right questions, it can help you avoid losing money or doing work for free unknowingly.

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