How to Avoid Craigslist Scams

As an expert Craigslister, I have also had the unfortunate experience of running across people that were trying to scam me and my family. How to avoid scams on Craigslist is a vital part of learning what to do - and not to do - when buying and selling on Craigslist. Follow some of these tips and you can avoid being the next victim of unscrupulous people trying to scam you out of your money, possessions, and possibly even your life.

Craigslist.org headquarters in San Francisco.
Craigslist.org headquarters in San Francisco. | Source

Tips for avoiding scams on Craigslist

The number #1 rule when dealing with people through Craigslist is to deal only with people that are local and that you can actually meet in person. The Craigslist website actually states that if you follow this one rule you will avoid 99% of the scams that people will try to perpetrate on you. Never even consider shipping a car or possessions to someone out of town, out of the state or even out of the country unless you have a personal guarantee that the person is legitimate and/or you know them.

  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service. I was able to save my son from getting scammed by investigating a purchase he was going to make via Western Union. That story for more information on this type of scam is here: Craigslist Scams on the Internet: A True Story
  • DO NOT ACCEPT MONEY ORDERS OR CASHIERS CHECKS when doing a transaction on Craigslist. The bank will actually cash these, and when they find out they are fake they will come back to you for the money. Only accept cash unless you are certain that the check is legitimate.
  • DON'T BUY ITEMS WITHOUT SEEING THEM FIRST. Just because there is a photo of the item on the ad does not mean that it is actually the item you are buying. Wait till you see the item and can determine for yourself if it's worth the money and what you really want.
  • DO NOT RENT HOUSING FROM SOMEONE UNLESS YOU CAN SEE THE INSIDE OF THE HOUSE FIRST and know that the person you are renting from is actually the owner and has the right to rent the property. With record foreclosures and many empty houses sitting abandoned, there have been people renting out empty houses that don't even belong to them. They will take your rent, and your deposit, then vanish.

Poll on your Craigslist experiences

Have you ever run across a scam on Craigslist?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I have never used Craigslist
  • I have been a victim of a Craigslist scam
See results without voting

More tips on avoiding scams on Craigslist

With the rise in identity theft, it's really important never to give your financial information to anyone on Craigslist. Never give anyone your banking information or social security number either. If someone wants to run a background check on you for a job, make sure that you meet the person first and make sure they are who they say they are,

  • AVOID DEALS WITH "GUARANTEES". There are no guarantees when buying and selling on Craigslist, only the persons word. You may buy a car and find out that it has more wrong with it than you realized. Take the car to a mechanic first before you buy it, or order a car-fax report on it.
  • NEVER DEAL WITH SHIPPING OR ESCROW SERVICES for items you are purchasing. Many of these are also scams. And for the record, the Craigslist website itself is never involved with any transaction, they are only the means for connecting buyers and sellers. They offer no guarantees for things bought or sold on their site.

Violent crimes on Craigslist

Lastly, the very worst thing that can happen to you when buying or selling on Craigslist is the risk of bodily harm or even death. If an item seems too good to be true, it probably is. The worst case scenario of a scam on Craigslist was perpetrated on my youngest son. He responded to an ad on Craigslist for a car 3 years ago. He took 2 friends and even his wife with him to look at the car. When he met the person at a gas station they said that the car was "around the corner". When they went around the corner they were directed into a lot in the back of an apartment where the car for sale was sitting. After they got out and popped the hood open, 3 men came out of nowhere with guns drawn and demanded money. My son fought back and was actually shot in the head. Lucky for him he was able to get away and get to a hospital, where he was treated for a gunshot wound, which had gone vertically up the side of his head instead of horizontally. If the bullet had gone horizontal he would not be here today. He was also pistol whipped during the crime. Truly one of the worst examples of a Craigslist scam which ended up in violence.

If you want to avoid scams on Craigslist, please remember to take another look at these tips when considering a purchase, People can be very convincing and it's important not to throw caution to the wind and take any chances when buying or selling on Craigslist.

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Comments 17 comments

Joseph Howard profile image

Joseph Howard 4 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

Wow, that story about your son is crazy, and I'm happy to hear he made it through okay. It's so important to have people like you presenting valuable information on possible scams from otherwise beneficial websites. This information can potentially save people hundreds or thousands of dollars! Great hub!


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 4 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Joseph) Thank you so much. Yes, what happened to him was extreme and crazy. I feel grateful everyday that I still have him. Thanks for reading and the comment.


remaniki profile image

remaniki 4 years ago from Chennai, India

Hi Dorsi,

Very useful hub. I am sharing it with my followers because this is one hub that is a must-read for everyone. Glad that your son got away with the near-fatal injury. Only very recently did I think of trying out Craigslist. Great information here. Thank you. Cheers, Rema


Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

Great information here as I utilize craigslist often!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon

For real? OMG - I know folks who deal with Craigslist all the time - even my daughter sold her car on there...that is truly frightening but I guess it is just the same as putting in classified ads these days. I had to explain to my parents that you DO NOT put your address in the paper and have people come to your home! Sad - but your article is spot on for tips and love the supporting evidence (so to speak) of the ads and how they appear on line!


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 4 years ago from California

I occasionally sell things on Craigslist. I've never bought anything because I have a lot of concerns about the things you listed. What you said about your son is my big worry. I always meet people in a really busy place for safety reasons.


penlady profile image

penlady 4 years ago from Sacramento, CA

You are providing valuable information that everyone who uses Craigslist needs to know. That’s why I’m tweeting this hub as well as voting it up and useful.

In my hometown, so many people have become victims of Craigslist. Now the latest scam is Backpage.com. I thank you for exposing this website’s “dirty side.” The people behind this site as well as others like it don’t want to public to know about their “dark side.”


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 4 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@remaniki) Thank you for sharing this with your followers. My greatest reward as a writer is when I feel that something I have wrote will help someone else. Thanks for reading and the comment.

@Angela Brummer) Craigslist is a great resource but like any sales with people you don't know, caution is necessary. Thanks for coming by.

@akirchner ) It's especially necessary to school the older folks on the dangers of buying and selling online. And addresses are a definite no-no. I have people come to my home only because my home is full of family and someone is pretty much always here. And I bring the item up front so they don't need to come in the house. My last purchase on Craigslist was for my pup Indie but I analyzed the house and ad really good before proceeding.

@Learn Things Web) This is a very good idea. My son still buys and sells on Craigslist but takes those same precautions. One of my other sons went to look at a car recently in a busy area but still felt something was amiss when the seller was not there and the area was bad so he just left. Smart move.


Lisa Pearlman profile image

Lisa Pearlman 4 years ago from Worcester, Massachusetts

@Dorsi Thanks for sharing this valuable information along with your personal story! How horrific for you & your son, thank god he lived to tell about it. This post will potentially save readers thousands of dollars, but more importantly it may save a life! It is scary in this day & age how many scams are going on. And the more desperate times become, the more scams people come up with and the more vulnerable people who succumb to scams out of sheer desperation, wanting to believe in a "golden opportunity".


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I have bought and sold household items on Craigslist without any bad results. Maybe I was just lucky. I even bought a car that turned out to be a great car. People have to use common sense like everything else. I wasn't even aware these scams were happening. I think I live under a rock, sometimes.


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 4 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Lisa) Thank you. Yes, as the economy gets worse it seems like more people are turning to bad things to make money. How very sad - yes we just need to be aware that there are those that do not have high standards, or have none in fact.

@mary) Thanks for reading. I too have had many many positive experiences on Craigslist. I think we also don't want to believe that there are people out there that do bad things like this!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

I think I read about your son awhile back - what a horrible story! It scared me from using Craigslist. My own son is a big user and loves it.


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 4 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Dolores) Nice to "see you" my friend. Glad to report that my son seems to be doing pretty good given the circumstances. I still use Craigslist and so does he but with alot of caution.


Helena Ricketts profile image

Helena Ricketts 4 years ago from Indiana

What happened to your son is just horrible! I hope they caught those guys.

I use Craigslist but I don't buy anything on there. I've picked up some free items but never in any "questionable" neighborhoods or alone. I usually stay pretty close to my house.

When someone buys something from me, I have them meet me at a gas station that is close to my house. They can either meet me there or get their item from another seller. The world is just too crazy these days!

I know the clerks & managers there quite well and they know that I meet people in their parking lot for quick transactions. We stay off to the side so we aren't in the way of their business and it's nice to know that when I show up, someone is always watching. I've never been comfortable with anyone coming out to my house.

Great hub with some very good information! Voted up!


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 4 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Helena) Glad to hear of the precautions you use when using Craigslist. It's not a good idea to have random people know where you live. I try to avoid that too. Thanks for coming by!


MomsTreasureChest profile image

MomsTreasureChest 4 years ago

Great hub with lots of useful tips! I've listed a few things on Craigslist and each time have had scammers contact me telling me they are ready to buy immediately and that if I send my bank or paypal info they will make the payment for the item and have a rep pick it up for them. Great info!


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 4 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@MomsTreasureChest) I'm so glad you didn't fall for that scam - I have a friend that got bilked out of thousands of dollars (his life savings) on the internet in once of those schemes!

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