Craigslist Scams – What Everyone Should Know About Them

Looking for the best deal? Look no more. It’s probably on Craigslist. With over 60 million users, you can find almost anything there.

Craigslist is a website that has revolutionized placing classified ads, finding jobs, houses, dates, and just about anything else you could possibly want. Despite the benefits, people look at Craigslist with caution for a good reason.

While this free-to-use market is an amazing resource for the average user, it’s also the perfect opportunity for con artists to completely disregard the rules and abuse the system to participate in shaddy and fraudulent practices.

Craigslist may be one of the very few websites where too-good-to-be-true offers could actually be true — until they’re not. There’s an ever growing list of victims who were unaware of craigslist fraud, until they became targets themselves.

Should You Care About Craigslist Scams?

Should You Care About Craigslist Scams

Craigslist manages classified ads that benefit the seller and the buyer. As always, fraud cases increase when the reward is big enough.

Bargain prices? Free stuff? Job opportunities? You can find it on Craigslist every day. We are used to look at features like these to recognize potential scams, but they may not be so obvious here.

If someone creates a fake offer, how would you find out? Thousands of buyers lose money because of their lack of awareness. Particularly on car deals and rentals.

Why Craigslist?

Although con artists prefer to use Craigslist, because of its sheer volume and size, these scams aren’t exclusive to this site. Here, they happen more often because:

  • Craigslist is successful and trusted.
  • Millions of people use it, internationally.
  • You can sell anything, anytime and with the exception of few cases, free of charge.

Because of these reasons, Craigslist has become the perfect place for scammers to express their creativity. They can be involved anywhere in the world using any scheme. And inexperienced buyers will never suspect that something is amiss.

Examples Of Craigslist Scams

Examples Of Craigslist Scams

Remember that because you can sell almost anything on Craigslist, there will be no limits on how many scam variations exist to trick people. Below are a few examples of some of the more common scams that you may find on Craigslist.

The Dating Trick

If there’s an easy sell in this world, it’s the illusion of a potential hot date to a young single male. That’s what makes this underhanded marketing practice so powerful for affiliate marketers.

The scam basically works like this: The affiliate goes into the personals section of Craigslist. They place an ad in the singles section pretending to be an attractive young single female. They may post a picture of a cute girl in the ad and say to reply to the post in order to make contact.

The email tied to the account may be set up with an auto responder, and when an interested male replies to the ad, they’ll receive an email trying to entice them into signing up for the dating site the marketer is affiliated with. Marketers can get extremely creative here, but here is an example of how this may look like:

Hi Richard,

thanks for contacting me! I’ve just moved here for university and I really don’t know anyone in town, so I’m just trying to meet some new people (guys in particular).

I’ve been receiving way more replies than I thought I would from this ad, so it’s hard for me to contact each and every one of you. I decided to set up an account on this site (it’s free to sign up!) so that you can find out more about me and see some of my sexier pictures.

If you want we can meet there. My profile is JennyXOXO, come find me and send me a picture of yourself!

I hope to hear from you soon!


The poor unsuspecting guy thinks he’s going to score a hot date, only to sign up and find out that “JennyXOXO” doesn’t even exist. If he signed up with a credit card, it is possible that he will be charged for the membership as well.

One can also switch the sexes in any way possible in the above example, however the most common scam happens to the male audience who are on the hunt for females.

Work From Home Ad

Craigslist really is a haven for the shaddy marketer who lacks any moral or business ethics. There are affiliate programs for literally any product that you can think of. A few that we can mention as examples are business opportunities, pay day loans, insurance leads, mortgage leads and rental leads.

Promoting these types of offers on Craigslist goes against the websites terms of use. Therefor the dubios affiliate will promote these programs in very different and creative ways.

An example we can mention is an ad for a work at home opportunity:

Work From Home Opportunity

We are currently trying to fill 4 work from home positions.
All training is provided. Income potential is performance based.

Our new employees earn $4,000 on average within their first 30 days, with our top employees currently averaging $9,000 per month.

Send a resume to our HR if you are interested and we’ll be in touch.

When an interested prospect replies to the post, they’ll receive an email or a link to a website with a sales pitch on what they need to do in order to get started. Sometimes the affiliate direct them to a “work at home offer” where you need to pay an upfront cost for the “starter kit”.

At other points they might be redirected to an IQ test for example. The affiliate earns a couple of buck if you accomplish it. And you might think doing an IQ test seems quite a legit thing to do and be asked about from your employeer.

Car For Sale

Buying or selling cars has never been easier because of Craigslist, but scams wait for the unwary. Let’s take a look at a more elaborate and damaging car sale scam on craigslist.

There are too many variations of deceptive marketing practices or outright scams to cover in a single article. Hence it is wise to learn some tips that you can use to protect yourself.

Red Flags Of A Craigslist Scam

Red Flags Of A Craigslist Scam

Scam victims always wonder: “How did I even get into this problem? I only wanted to do some business.” If you learn the following red flags, you’ll be much more able to prevent the scam before it becomes unmanageable.

Non-Local Ads

Craigslist promotes international service. People can use particular states or countrie to buy things easily. Why would anybody want to sell abroad? This heavily depends on what is being offered.

Many people buy and sell from other countries. But it may let you open to complex issues with payments and communication. Would you buy from someone you can’t meet in person? This might make sense in many cases, but if it does not make sense in yours, better stay on the local site and meet in person.

Craigslist Clones is the original website with .com, .net, and city prefixes included. If you search any of them, they all send you to the main website. Why would Craigslist need so many domains?

Due to Craigslists popularity, many people create duplicates of the website for phishing attacks. The Craigslist design isn’t hard to fake (look at it; it’s a bunch of links and a grid), and people could fall into it.

The solution? Craigslist has bought most of the possible domain misspellings or variations and redirected them to the main website. Although cloning is less common today, you could still stumble upon one of these.

Never give your credentials to unknown sites and check your browsers address bar for which website you are on.

Payment Protection

No matter what you sell, unusual payment methods are the universal red flag of fraud. But if these payments offer buyer protection, you can let it pass by. The catch is that craigslist doesn’t offer such a guarantee.

It’s an ad website, not a webstore. Thankfully, buyers have become smarter over time. Most people will use secure payment methods or pay escrow services to protect their purchase… however this might be yet another risk. It won’t be the first time you hear about fake escrows.

Confusing Listings

You find the ideal, probably time-limited offer. But making the deal is a challenge — almost as if the seller was avoiding you. The idea of the message is of course to make you act fast without thinking.

We say confusing listings because you start finding problems that shouldn’t be there. Shipping methods? Unusual payments? Business partnerships? It’s should be a simple sale!

If the person imposes unusual terms and conditions, he may be leading you to his scheme.

  • “Sorry, I cannot meet in person. Only private message.”
  • “You’ve already seen the photos. Why do you want to waste time watching the real item? You’ll get it after you pay anyway.”
  • “This method won’t protect your purchase. I’ll send you an invoice through this payment processor.”
  • “Can I pay with money orders/cheques?”
  • “International shipping is different. Make sure to cover these fees. And don’t worry. You’re getting a super-deal after all!”

These are some of the messages you could find when chatting with a scammer.

Preventing Craigslist Fraud

Preventing Craigslist Fraud

There are so many amazing deals out there. Why waste time with fake sellers? If you learn to prevent or at least minimize the risks of a Craigslist scam, you can buy with more confidence and make the most out of the platform.


Due to the many scams on the Internet, the first step is to admit that we can’t know everything. Scammers will make up different schemes and make them hard to spot. After all this is their “job”.

The solution? If you think an offer is suspicious, also contact their competitors or similar offers, many of them. Once you know what the offer is, you compare and ask the seller why it’s different. Perhaps it’s a real opportunity.

Scams happen in small proportions, so looking more broadly is a safe way to compare and make decisions.

Payment Protection

Thinking to buy a car or a property? Don’t let them chose the payment method: research the best payment services and use them.

Some sellers may ask you for advance payments, which may be normal. However you should be on the lookout to avoid advance fee fraud.

What about small purchases? People usually won’t make a big deal if they lose less than $50. Scammers take full advantage of this and could sell fake offers to thousands of buyers.

Craigslist Report

Nobody likes being ripped off. You can email to expose a scammer and stop the scheme.

If they’ve never scammed you on Craigslist before, it may be because someone reported and prevented it on time. The platform becomes safer everytime someone reports these cases. The more information you can offer the better.

The Bottom Line

Craigslist is constantly refining itself and putting systems in place to prevent this kind of trickery from happening. The deceptive marketers are always a step ahead of the system. They will go to great lengths in order to post multiple ads across multiple categories and cities, trick unsuspecting consumers, and do whatever they can to put as much money as possible in their own pockets, with complete disregard for the people they deceive.

The best defense against this is to do your part is to follow the mentioned guidelines. And as a member of the Craigslist community, flag suspicious ads. Community based moderation means that you too can help keep Craigslist spam and scam free.

Craigslist wouldn’t have gone big if it wasn’t a trustworthy platform. Some people have made a fortune by buying other people’s “trash” and turning it into cash.

Opportunities are already there. If you become a self-aware buyer, you’ll start catching those super-deals without the fraud headaches.

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