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Craigslist revolutionized community periodicals and classified ads when it premiered in San Francisco in 1995. Started as an email list by entrepreneur and philanthropist, Craig Newmark, it has evolved into a multi-national website that hasn’t changed much in its appearance or lost its integrity.
However, though the site and its creator may have good intentions, the users are an entirely different story. Every day someone is the victim of Craigslist scams, and the site’s safety moderators seem too few to keep up with the site’s growing traffic. It might be as simple as a Nigerian scammer texting you from a fake number or as severe as lost funds (or even murder).
As mentioned above, if you try and sell something on Craigslist, you will more than likely encounter a foreign (or domestic) scammer. This is particularly true if you sell anything small, such as jewelry.
New sellers on Craigslist might be caught off guard when they receive an email or text asking if they can mail an item after they are paid by cashier’s check or sent the money through PayPal. It might sound legit until you discover the charges are reversed or the check was counterfeit.
Safety Tip: Never use Craigslist for sales by mail. If you do make the mistake of mailing someone an item, you will likely discover their payment method has reversed and that you are now left without the thing you sent or the cash! It is also not reliable to purchase anything by mail through Craigslist. If you want to shop online and receive mailed items, try sites such as Amazon.com instead.
According to the industry watchdog group, Advanced Interactive Media Group, Craigslist is responsible for its users being the victims of over 100 murders. Dangerous criminals post semi-anonymously on Craigslist to look for their next victim. Other times, those who meet someone from Craigslist may be the product of a sales gone wrong – where someone with evil intentions robs or attacks them.
Safety Tip: Meet in a public place for all job interviews and dates. No matter what you’re buying, try and first meet in a public location. If it is the sale of an item in someone’s home (or if you are selling an item in your home) have others with you for safety and assess the situation. Perform a quick email, phone number, reverse image search, or username search of anyone who messages you on Social Catfish.
Perhaps you or your girlfriend, spouse, or one of your children answers a modeling ad. It could be a professional sounding posting, and they meet at a business location or public place. The next thing you know, their drink is spiked, and they are forced into the world of human trafficking, never to be seen again.
Safety Tip: Even meeting at a business office isn’t safe if a criminal knows the spot is a relatively deserted location. Search the correct business name, address, phone number, and details of anyone you meet online. Also, beware of spoofed phone numbers.
Craigslist rental scams work like this – you see a beautiful home for rent or sale, at a high asking price – maybe it’s even a vacation rental! The owner claims to be out of the area for work or on vacation. They send you photographs and offer to let you sign the lease remotely. They may even give you the code for a lock-box on the property. The only problem is, once you send them your deposit or rental fees and go to unlock the property, you realize you’ve been speaking with a scammer who doesn’t even own the property!
Safety Tip: Make sure you see a property in person before agreeing to lease or buy it. Do not wire or send any money to a stranger. Deal with local real estate agents to reduce fraud.
While the authorities wait for Craigslist to tighten its safety policy, if you do suspect you’ve been the victim of a crime, contact your local police department. If you aren’t sure if you’re interacting with a real person, try an algorithm fueled background check: