Craigslist Car Scams on the Internet - a True Story

True story about a Craigslist scam. Don't be taken in by these thieves!
True story about a Craigslist scam. Don't be taken in by these thieves! | Source

Beware of Craigslist Car Scams

Scams on the internet or scams on Craigslist. You never think it will happen to you then along comes a friend or family member that have either been duped out of their money through the internet or are trying to figure out if they've unknowingly just been scammed themselves.

Last week I saw a new twist on a Craiglist scam - using EBay and a fake email account - and the almost victim was a close family member of mine. Luckily the person came to me first to check out the transaction, and fortunately for them I did some sleuthing around to indeed uncover that there was a scamster out to bilk him out of $1,200.

So how did the scam work? I'll tell you in detail so that this doesn't happen to you. Follow along...

Original posting: What a Craigslist Car Scam looks like

This is the original posting on Craigslist that turned out to be a Internet Scam. The seller tried to fraudently use the EBay buyers protection plan to aid in his scam
This is the original posting on Craigslist that turned out to be a Internet Scam. The seller tried to fraudently use the EBay buyers protection plan to aid in his scam | Source

Too good to be true? Probably is!

I'll call the potential victim "John" to protect his privacy.

John came to me because he was buying a car on Craigslist for $1,200 and wanted my advice about the Craigslist internet transaction.

"John" was buying a car from someone that had placed an ad on Craigslist (and for the record John has bought and sold a few cars on Craigslist) John had answered an ad for a car that was about 35 miles away. The "seller' claimed to be a leitenant in the army and said he was stationed out of town. He said he was selling the car because his wife and him were getting a divorce. And BTW, all this was divulged through email because the seller NEVER gave John his phone number (claimed he couldn't because he was on duty)

RED FLAG #1 ! Never deal with a person that cannot or will not give you a vaild phone number!

RED FLAG #2 ! Beware of dealing with people that claim to be "out of town" or "out of the country".

RED FLAG #3 ! Beware of people that only want to deal with you through email!

Craigslist scam using fake EBay's Buyer Protection Plan

Next John calls me to take a look at his emails because the buyer wants John to be "protected" on his car purchase by using "the EBay buyer protection plan". The seller was going to arrange "shipping" of the car to John since he was "out of town on duty in the army".

Because I had previously bought a car on EBay and had it shipped from back east, John thought I would be a good person to advise him. In fact, I had even used the EBay buyer protection plan myself (but my car was bought through an actual EBay listing)

So I open up Johns email to look at the "receipt" for the EBay buyer protection plan that the seller was recommending. At first glance, the email looked like a real receipt straight from EBay themselves. All the colors, wording and information looked correct and trustworthy. Had John acted on this alone, he would have truly thought this was an honest to goodness receipt.

On the EBay "receipt", Western Union was requested as the form of payment on the car.

Being the sleuther that I am, I was not feeling right about telling John to go ahead with the transaction because something in my gut was telling me something was not right about the transaction (because of the previous red flags that were raised - an out of town seller without access to a phone)

So I went to the EBay site and learned that Western Union is NEVER advised as a form of payment (PayPal is preferred) and there were posts in the forum there about the "Craigslist-EBay car scam". I pulled one of the replies from a poster there that summed up what I had been looking for - that YES this was a scam:

"You've asked yourself twice if this is too good to be true.

Yes it is. It is a scam. You can't pay for anything through eBay - especially items not listed on eBay.

You can purchase items on eBay and pay for them based on the seller's payment terms (usually PayPal).

If the item isn't listed on eBay, it has nothing to do with eBay.

There is no car. It is a scam.

Good you asked before going further..."

Craigslist car scam RED FLAGS:

  • Cars are priced far below current market value.
  • The seller claims to be in the military and is stationed overseas.
  • The posting does not include a phone number.
  • The seller will demand that you use an online escrow service of their choice.
  • The person receiving the call is referred to as a "pickup agent."
  • Payment must be wired to or from another country. Western Union is often requested.
  • The buyer or seller is very anxious to conclude the transaction.

In Johns case, the "EBay receipt" that he had received via his email had an altered transaction number with a request for payment to be made via Western Union. THIS WAS A FAKE RECIEPT, AND EBAY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TRANSACTION. Another red flag was that the EBay receipt came straight from the sellers email, not EBAY. Another RED FLAG!!

Below is a screenshot I took of the fake receipt sent to John from "Ebay". Looks real, doesn't it?

Email sent in fraudulent internet Craigslist car scam

This is a screenshot of the emali sent by the seller with a fake EBay buyers protection plan receipt. Never use Western Union as payment on EBay or Craigslist ( request for western union payment highlighted in yellow)
This is a screenshot of the emali sent by the seller with a fake EBay buyers protection plan receipt. Never use Western Union as payment on EBay or Craigslist ( request for western union payment highlighted in yellow) | Source

Craigslist advice on buying and selling (from the Craigslist website)

  • Trust your instincts
  • Deal only with local buyers and sellers
  • NEVER wire funds to a distant buyer, via Western Union or any other carrier
  • Be wary if the other party wants to use an escrow service such as BidPay, Squaretrade, or even PayPal
  • NEVER give out personal financial information (eBay or PayPal info, checking account number, SSN, etc.)
  • always remember the most important rule -- BUYER BEWARE

This advice isn't specific to Craigslist. It's just all-around good advice. Below are the top three Craigslist scams.

  • The buyer or seller doesn't live near you.
  • The buyer or seller wants to pay by cashier's check, US Postal Service money order, Western Union, or escrow service (BidPay, Squaretrade, etc.).
  • The buyer or seller won't agree to meet with you in person.

If you happen to see something on Craigslist that looks scammy, you should send an email to "" and give them as much detail as you can about the listing. Make sure you include URL (or 8 digit post ID number) in your email. If you're selling something and you think a con artist has expressed interest, forward it to ""

And make sure you are really on Craigslist!

More Craigslist advice from this author:

Read about how the author has used Craigslist to sell everything from World War 2 radio equipment to landscapers plant and garden "specials" :

How Can I Make Money on Craigslist

What are the Best Things I can Sell on Craigslist?

How to use Craigslist to find a job. First hand experiences of the author:

How to Find a Job on Craigslist

If you love animals but can't keep them or need to find a home for them this is a good read about "selling" pets on Craigslist (which is not allowed BTW - you can only ask a modest adoption fee):

Selling Dogs,Cats and Pets on Craigslist

How to find a lost pet using Craigslist.The author found her dog this way. Plus other tips on how to find a lost pet:

How to find a lost pet using Craigslist

More on using Craigslist for creative things like "plant swaps" under services and events:

"Plant Swaps and Plant Swapping"

Knowledge is POWER - Beat the Scammers!!

I hope this article has been helpful to you and that by writing this you will save yourself and family/friends from being scammed. By speaking up and asking questions, we may be able to save some people from losing money to these devious Internet scamsters. We need to fight back, and knowledge is power. I have a real interest in this because my son was shot and robbed trying to buy a car on Craigslist, and no family should ever have to go through what we did. My sons story is here - thank God he survived but the scamsters that robbed and shot him have not been brought to justice as far as I know.

Another close friend of mine lost his life savings to the Internet Nigerian scam - $8,000 - and never had any recourse for the money lost. His story is here.

Craigslist is a great resource for buying and selling items, renting and finding a job. I am a big advocate of Craigslist but as in anything safety, common sense and being informed are CRITICAL to having a safe experience when buying online. Do not let yourself fall victim to the Craigslist car scam or any other internet scam - if something seems too good to be true it probably is. Stay safe!

(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer/publisher on the internet and writes about a broad variety of topics - conspiracies, kids, health, product reviews among many other topics of the day)

Poll about your Craigslist use

Do you use Craigslist to buy or sell things?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I wouldn't use Craigslist after reading this hub
  • I will try Craigslist but be very careful
See results without voting

More by this Author

Comments 29 comments

Christy Chen profile image

Christy Chen 5 years ago from Indonesia

Hi Dorsi,

Really helpful! Thank you for your time to create this amazing hub and try to warn us all about this type of scam. Never thought that this would be possible.

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

It is wonderful help to beat these scamsters. In England WESTERN UNION has a bad name for tranferring money. I was told this many a times that money gets lost.

ocbill profile image

ocbill 5 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

they are in the rentals areas too. You always have to be on guard.

Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Dorsi...great hub! Thank you for sharing thes great points of "looking out" for a scam. yep, they're out there. You've done a great service here, helping potential victims NOT be taken advantage of. And it is everywhere on Craigslist AS WELL AS eBay and, believe me, if you need eBay's help because you've been scammed on THEIR site..Good Luck getting any satisfaction. it happened to me and I completely closed my very lucrative site with 100% Feedback because I was SO UPSET over their absolute lack of assistance ... they allowed the listing which was ABSOLUTELY illegal as well as unethical.

PS I'm coming back to the Bay more SE Kansas, heartland livin' for me.

Robin profile image

Robin 5 years ago from San Francisco

Great Hub, Dorsi. My parents were listing their house for rent and someone actually stole their listing by posting it again on craigslist with her pictures, got an email address with my mom's exact name, and almost scammed multiple people. My mom had to put a huge sign in the window, saying, "This house is not for rent for $1000, if you are interested in renting the house call XXX-XXXX" The craigslist scammer said he was a traveling doctor in the UK and just wanted to rent the house to cover utilities. He also requested first and last month's rent, $2000 via Western Union. Luckily, two potential victims drove by the house and saw the sign. It's so sad that people use a great service to scam others. Thanks for informing us about the craigslist car scam!

barbergirl28 profile image

barbergirl28 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

Great hub - thanks for the warning!

Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Christy) Thanks and YW!

@hello,hello) I think I'm going to stay away from using Western Union!

@ocbill) I've been hearing more about these rental scams too.

@Lucky Cats) Thanks for the helpful comment and welcome back to Cali!

@Robin) Wow!! The extent these scammers are going to is almost unbelievable!! Maybe I need to write about these rental scams too. Glad your mom was on top of it!!

@barbara) YW!

@Ulf) Thanks for that tip. And for reading.

theobrl profile image

theobrl 5 years ago from São Paulo - Brazil

Hey Dorsi,

Thanks for warning people about scams on Craiglist.

I love Craiglist, Ebay and all that, but we need to watch out for fraudsters.

Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

I have never been a big fan of CraigsList aand after the murder of those 2 girls in Boston, I do not even log on to it

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Dorsi, wonderful Hub! Scammers are so creative, endlessly finding new ways to bilk folks out of their money.

For as well-known as eBay is in general, its ins and outs are not. I can see how folks who don't buy or sell on eBay could be duped with that "buyer protection" business and an eBay email look-alike. The good news for consumers is that people like you can expose these scams to large audiences; eventually the scam will wear itself out. Unfortunately, it will also be replaced by a new one.

Up and useful!

Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@theobri) Yes we do! Thanks for coming by.

@Holly Matheson) Sounds like the same scam Holly!!

@Mrs, JB) That is scary. I read about that.

@Sally) Yes these scammers are getting very creative!! Constantly got to be on your toes but like I said, if it seems to be too good to be true it probably is!!

Thanks for reading Sally.

LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 5 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

Thank you for this wonderful Hub! This is a public service to many people, and you just wised me up to even more ways to be scammed. Yipes it is rough out there on the wwweb. I am horrified for what happened to your son, and I am on my way to read that next. The very best to you Dorsi. Thanks for the helps

Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

Your welcome Lilly. That's my hope - that this hub will save someone else from being scammed!!

W. K. Hayes profile image

W. K. Hayes 5 years ago from Bryson City, North Carolina

The trick behind any scam is to make it look as authentic as possible. Still, if something sounds fishy, or otherwise, inverstigate the matter. At one time scammers were stealing checks from companies and passing them out like candy and all the person had to do was cash the check, get a percentage and mail the rest onward.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 5 years ago

Nice, Dorsi. I bought a car online once, and in the process I found myself in the middle of a really, really good scam. I ended up not getting ripped off because I emailed the information to the "Escrow" holder, and they sent me info back that it was fraudulent. Ebay will respond to you very quickly if you send them anything with their logo and ask if it's legit or not. Sorry about what happened to your son, how horrible.

Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@W.K) Wow. The exttent these scanmsters go to never ceases to amaze me.

@hostage) Nice to see you my friend. Sounds like you encountered the same exact scam. Glad you didn't get taken and got ahold of EBay about it. Smart move my friend!!

DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 5 years ago

Dorsi, Nice Hub! Thank You so much for alerting us to the possible perils of buying on Craigslist. This is very helpful! Peace & Blessing!

Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@DeBorrah) Thanks and glad it was helpful DeBorrah!

stephencardiff profile image

stephencardiff 5 years ago

I have seen many of these scams its terrible what people do to eachother these days...

Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Stephen) Yes it's very very sad.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

When will these scams stop!?! Very useful hub, Dorsi, thank you.

Tankadin profile image

Tankadin 5 years ago

It's really sad that there are so many people scamming folks and it's usually the ones that have the least money to spare. Thank you for the warning.

Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Genna and Tankadin) Yes it is sad. Hopefully the more we spread the news about these scamsters the less times they can rip people off!

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Thanks for remind us about this. Very informative and good to protect us from Craigslist Car Scams on the Internet. I really enjoy reading your story. Experience is the best teacher, right. Well done, my friend. I learn much from you. Take care!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Well done ! This is the best way to inform others of this scam. The detail you give shows your warm heart is trying to make sure others don't get burned. I like you Dorsi, you are a good person, ya know that?

Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Prasetio) TY!!

@EarnestHub) What a nice compliment. Thank you my friend!!

manthy profile image

manthy 5 years ago from Alabama,USA

Very nice hub - I hope this helps to keep the public safe.

Thanks for sharing it

Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@YW Manthy and I hope so too.

mase857 14 months ago

Craigslist is definitely full of scammers but also a place full of great legit resources, people just need to learn how to detect scams which is pretty easy. EuropeGiant is also another great online platform like Craigslist. Very user friendly and cleaner than Craigslist , seems to be very well moderated.

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