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Craigslist Scam

Updated on July 18, 2011

Scams on Craigslist, Ebay, and Other Listing Sites

The Craigslist scam is simple, and it can be used in other listing sites besides Craigslist. The seller uses Ebay, Craigslist, Cars.com, AutoTrader, etc. to sell a vehicle or product at a VERY low price. The “seller” usually fails to list a telephone number or lists a fax number. Once you send the “seller” an e-mail, the typical response is that the item is still for sale, but now it’s in another state because of some sob story. The “seller” then tells you to use Ebay, Google Checkout, PayPal, or some other reputable business to provide a vehicle protection program. You’ll receive an email, courtesy of the scammer, that claims to be from one of the reputable companies. It will look fairly convincing, but it isn’t from the real company! At this point, you’re asked to wire money, as a deposit, to the company. Before you do this, know that there is NO vehicle protection program that is going to hold your money while you get a 5-7 day inspection period. The scam only works if you wire the money, so you’ll know it’s a scam if you offer any other form of payment and it’s denied by the seller. DON’T wire money for any product you’ve found on the internet. Once you wire money, it’s gone forever. These scammers will get your money, and you’ll never get the product. How could you get it? There is no real product, just pictures and a listing that the scam artist stole from a real seller, lowered the price, and changed the email address! Don’t fall for this scam!

Scams on Craigslist

I just avoided an $1,800 mistake! Somebody tried to use the Craigslist scam on me, and I want to make sure you know how to avoid getting scammed on Craigslist, Ebay, or any other listing site on the Internet. If you’re planning on buying a large item, such as a car, from Ebay or Craigslist, please read this before making your purchase.

I need to buy a skip loader to move rock in my yard, so I started searching across the Internet. I found deals ranging from $1,800 to $25,000, and I responded to three deals. All three were on Craigslist. One skip loader, a Bobcat, was listed for $1,800. Another was listed for $2,500, and the third was $3,500. All of these prices seemed more than fair, and I was skeptical when I saw the prices. As with anybody though, I’m always looking for a good deal, so I bit.

I never received return emails for two of the skip loaders, the two most expensive Bobcats. I did receive a response on the cheapest Bobcat:

Craigslist Scam: The Scam Artist's First Email

Thank you for your interest in purchasing my 1993 Bobcat 843 Skid steer Loader ,2463 hours, 54 HP, diesel engine, excellent tread on tires. The machine is still for sale and it is as good as it looks. I have decided to sell it for $1800 and the buyer will receive it with all papers and receipts so if you buy it you don't have to worry about the paperwork. Also you will have 5 days to inspect and test after you receive it.

It was my father's but unfortunately he can't use it anymore as he died 3 month ago. I moved back where I was born in Provo,UT and now it will be shipped from here. Please get back to me for more photos and only if you want to buy it.

Craigslist Fraud Scam

When I received this email, a few things alerted me to the potential scam. The first was that I had responded on the very day of the posting. The Bobcat was posted in Phoenix, but now it was already in Provo, Utah? How could they have moved it in half a day? The answer seemed obvious. I live in Arizona, and I could have easily driven a few hours to look at the tractor. With a move, I wouldn’t be able to inspect it. I’d have to purchase it without even seeing it. That was a caution flag.

The second thing that alerted me was the fact that I received the exact same email three times. When I initially emailed my interest in the Bobcat, I made three separate emails, each detailing a unique question. Instead of having any of my questions answered, I received this email response three times. Scam artists don’t really care what you say, they simply respond with their standard responses. If you bite, you bite.

Though I was highly skeptical, I responded to the email saying I would purchase it. At this point, I expected an email saying one of two things. Either the Bobcat was already sold, or I expected details about securing the Bobcat. I received neither of these responses and instead, received this email:

Craigslist Scam: The Scam Artist's Second Email

The price is firm $1800 even you come to pick it up even you want it shipped. The machine is located in Provo,Utah as I told in my first email but my brother-in-law will use his discount to help me with shipping. He own a business with sewing machines and he is using the shipping company from 3 years. We will use Google Checkout for this transaction so both of us will be protected and insured by them. If you are not aware of this program, you should know that it will allow you to test drive and inspect the machine before paying me. I just need your full name and address so I can open a case .(with no further obligation or fees). I think is more then fair that you pay $1800 as shipping is my responsibility.

The inspection period will be set to 5 days and I think is enough for you to make a decision about the machine. I also want to inform you that I am entertaining another 2 offers for it at this moment so please let me know your decision as soon as possible to know what to do. One of them is waiting for a loan and will get in touch with me tomorrow if he can buy it or not and the other one have only $1600 to buy it.

Craigslist Scam

Craigslist Scam

At this point, I was finished. I knew it was a scam. I had offered the full asking price, a way to view the machine prior to the purchase, and details on how I would pickup the Bobcat. This email ignored, once again, everything I had said. Reality took hold of me at this point. Why would anybody be willing to ship a Bobcat for this price? Shipping would cost up to a thousand dollars. The grammatical errors within the email reminded me of a foreigner trying to communicate in English. This seemed suspicious. The nail in the coffin was the fact that she wanted me to use Google Checkout for the transaction. It’s very, very common for scam artists to conceal their deceit behind names and brands you trust.

For the benefit of others, I provided an erroneous address and awaited a response. The response came promptly:

Google Checkout Scam: The Scam Artist's Third Email

Google Checkout just notified me that they started the transaction so check your email because they will get in touch with you. The machine is in perfect condition and how I told you in my emails you will have 5 days to inspect it. I will keep the machine for you but as I told you I am entertaining another 2 offers for it so please let me know if you buy it or not no later then tomorrow evening. At this point I announced them that I will get in back with them tomorrow evening that's why I need from your part to keep me posted.

As soon I get the confirmation from Google Checkout that you sent the payment the machine is yours. I can start the shipping or if you want you can come to pick it up.


Google Checkout Scam: Buyer Protection Program Scam

In addition to this email, I also received an email claiming to be Google Checkout. The directions for the transaction were:

Payment must be submitted via Western Union to the designated Regional Manager in charge of this transaction. Google Checkout will secure the payment until the buyer receives, inspects and accepts the vehicle.

Or, if it will be the case, Google Checkout will refund the payment to the buyer.

Step 1: Go to and Western Union Office and ask for a “SEND” Money Transfer form.
Step 2: Fill out the Money Transfer form using Google Checkout Regional Manager details found below on the "receiver info".
Step 3: Pay with cash the total amount with Western Union transfer fee included in it.
Step 4: Fax** the payment receipt*** to Google Checkout Financial Department* at : +1-(866)-819-1269


*Note: Our system has paired your transaction with an available Google Checkout Regional Manager, who will act as a third party in this transaction. This is done automatically by our system, the computer select random from the list of available agents worldwide, in order to ensure the impartiality of this transaction, without inappropriately advantaging neither the seller, nor the buyer.

*It is required not to specify that the payment is being sent as a payment for an Google Checkout transaction in order to avoid the extra charges that the Western Union may apply. This will also help us verify the payment information much faster because the payment will be registered as a personal one instead of a commercial one.


Avoid PayPal Fraud and Buyer Protection Program Scams

When I saw this, I had to laugh a little. Notice how many grammatical errors there are! Google would never send something with that many errors. Google, Ebay, and PayPal would never ask you to wire money to them, and they would never ask you to deceive the wiring institution.

Both Ebay and Craigslist explicitly say that you should never make a deal involving Western Union, MoneyGram, wire transfers, cashier checks, money orders, shipping, escrow, or any promise of transaction protection/certification/guarantee. THERE’S A REASON! IT’S A SCAM!

  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
  • Google the title of the listing or any part of the listing before responding. When I did this, I found multiple listings for the same tractor in different cities. Each listing was word for word!
  • Look at the pictures. In my case, the pictures were obviously taken in a green and lush place. The listing was in Phoenix.
  • Look at the listing to see if there are any clues. I noticed that the listing said “Phoenix-Phoenix-Phoenix-Phoenix” several times. When I found other listings for the same tractor, different cities appeared.
  • Ask at least two questions in separate emails. If it’s a real seller, both answers will be answered within one or two emails. In my case, I asked three questions in three separate emails. All three came back as the same email. None of the questions were answered.
  • Be aware of the language used within the emails you receive. Does it sound like a foreigner? Note misspellings such as Crags List, Criegslist, and Crag List. These are telltale signs of fraud. If you see language that appears to be foreign, beware.
  • If somebody tells you they’ve moved and now need to ship the item to you, beware. My “seller” claimed to have moved to Provo, Utah, but the tractor wasn’t even listed there.
  • If the seller tells you that you will pay the same cost regardless of whether the item is shipped or you collect the item in person, beware. Shipping is expensive.
  • If the seller avoids meeting with you or talking to you over the phone, beware.
  • If the seller asks you to use a protection program for your security, beware.
  • Deal locally if it’s a large, expensive item. See it before you buy it. Many sellers, even the people who actually intend to sell something to you, will fail to fully disclose all the information necessary to make an informed decision. I found that out the hard way after I drove almost three hundred miles to look at a tractor. The seller didn’t even own the tractor, he’d only seen it once, it could only be started once, and the hydraulics weren’t functioning. In his ad, he said it was fully functional, and I spent a lot of money finding out what his idea of fully functional really meant. Deal locally.
  • If the seller asks you to wire money to them or any other entity, RUN! As a general rule, wire money to family members only. Wire money to your useless brother-in-law who needs to make bail for the third time this year. Wire money to your willingly unemployed cousin who spent the rent money on lottery tickets. Wire money to your kind and loving grandmother who doesn’t have enough money for her medication. Never wire money to a stranger for anything on Ebay, Craigslist, or any other listing site. You’ll lose your money. Wire money to family and friends but never to strangers!

Don’t be a victim of the Craigslist scam. Please pass this on to your friends.

Internet Fraud: Fake Check

Craigslist Fraud Scam Update

I’m still looking for a tractor, and I responded to a different listing. Guess what. It’s been moved to Provo, Utah too. The seller has a brother in the sewing machine business. Does this sound familiar? The Craigslist scam works, because the scammers merely change the item every few days, pull their free email accounts, and close the bank accounts, so it’s hard to follow their trail. Each listing is the same but with a different item. Instead of a 1969 Ford, they may sell a 1989 Bobcat. Either way, the wording and the scam remains the same. Beware!

There's also another scam where the "buyer" sends a fake check. The YouTube video above explains this scam.

Craigslist Scam Comments

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    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley Marks 

      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the valuable information about scams on Craigslist. I think the main thing to remember in such deals is to be patient and assume it could be a scam from the get-go. Later!

    • profile image

      fashion 

      9 years ago

      Great article.Very helpful also.

    • sasta10 profile image

      sasta10 

      9 years ago from Manchester, UK

      Hi, thanks for this great hub. This kind of scams are on all over the internet. My email box gets floaded everyday with similar scams. I was scammed on ebay even by a genuine seller in France, aparantly he had a kick off with ebay and decided to use his trust as a seller to scam me. He took £400 off me and never delivered the goods which he was supposed to deliver. He used another person's paypal email to take the money. Thanks.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      9 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is a great, helpful hub. I'll be sure to be on the lookout for the scams you described.

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