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Common Scams on Craigslist

Updated on July 29, 2015

As an avid buyer and seller on Craigslist I've had the misfortune of being scammed one to many times. I'm here to educate you on common scams that take place on Craigslist. Please learn from my mistakes, Craiglist is full scammers preying on the naive.

First thing to know, TRUST NO ONE.

The most important thing is SAFETY. When meeting someone to buy or sell your item, never do it alone. There have been to many horror stories on the news about people getting, beaten, raped, and even killed from answering a craigslist ad. Obviously if it's a big item like a furniture set you aren't going to load it up in your car and go meet them some where publicly. If possible move the furniture out to the garage, leave the garage open while they look at it, and you stand outside, not in the garage with them, with your cellphone in hand. Never bring someone in your home you don't know, no matter how nice they look. If you must, then have someone else with you, or two extra people, the more people the better. Again, trust no one. For smaller items meet them in a well lit public place inside. I usually chose a McDonald's or Starbucks.

This isn't a scam but a huge problem on Craigslist, and something all sellers want to avoid. A ton of people will contact you and say they want it and they never show up. In your Craigslist ad description at the top, the very first sentence, you should put "I will not hold items do to No-Shows". When someone contacts you and they want to buy the item, tell them it's first come first serve. If they really want it, they will find a way to come right away. Don't fall for the, "I don't get paid till next week will you hold it for me". Or the "I don't have a ride till Friday will you hold it for me". Kindly tell them "Sorry, I don't hold items". Some will continue to beg you to hold, don't do it. Chances are you'll never hear from them again and you just lost out on selling it to others. Just keep insisting you will not hold. Again if they want it bad enough they'll find a way. And if not, there's plenty of others who will. It seems many people buying on craigslist are just window shoppers. They want it, but when it comes down to buying it they don't. So stick to your guns and just say "No Holds Sorry".

Always check items thoroughly. Here's another way sellers will scam a buyer. Someone is selling a bag of clothes, their picture literally shows a pile of clothes. Wow, really, you want me to buy a pile of clothes not knowing what all is there and what condition it's in. People will sell a bag full of clothes and say "All name brand and in excellent condition". However, the clothes have stains or holes. They'll put a few nice piece on top and the crappy ones on the bottom. Search entire bag in good lighting.


Sadly, these days we can't trust anyone. The biggest scam I've been had with is counterfeit money. I sold a bedroom furniture set for $300. I was given all $10's and $20's. I never even thought twice about it. They were really nice people and they drove really nice cars. The next day I went shopping and was almost arrested for trying to buy merchandise with counterfeit money. Not only was I humiliated and had to deal with the police I was out $300 and my furniture. So check to make sure the money is real.

A simple google search for "How to tell if money is real" will show you ways to tell. Or you can go spend $3 at an office supply store and buy one of the counterfeit bill markers, you know the ones, it marks black on the bill, if it's fake the ink turns red. Cheap and easy way to not get fake bills like I did.

Always check items thoroughly. Here's another common scam. Someone is selling a bag of clothes, their picture literally shows a pile of clothes. Wow, really, you want me to buy a pile of clothes not knowing what all is there and what condition it's in. People will sell a bag full of clothes and say "All name brand and in excellent condition". However, the clothes have stains or holes. They'll put a few nice pieces on top and the crappy ones on the bottom. Search entire bag in good lighting.


Scammers love electronics. Many people sell electronics that don't work properly, or don't work at all. Test all electronics. If a seller says they want to met you in a public place, which you should, make sure it's some where you can plug the electronics in. Sellers will come up with every excuse why they don't have time for you to check to make sure it works. Or insist they meet some where outdoors where you can't it. Tell them you must test it or you wont buy it. If they don't let you test it, there's a reason, so don't buy it.


Your buying a New in sealed box item on craigslist. Learn from my mistake. Open every box and test every item. Scammers love to pull this one over on people, and it has happened to me. Christmas one year my son wanted an XBox 360, they were sold out every where. So I hop on craigslist and there are a ton of people selling them, new in sealed box. I meet a guy at a local fast food joint and sure enough he has a brand new XBox in a sealed box. I'm thrilled and I'm going to make my son's Christmas brighter. Here we are Christmas morning opening our gifts and my son opens his xbox, he is so happy, yelling and dancing around. When the gifts are finished being opened he asks dad to hook up his new XBox. Dad opens box and inside books and a hand weight. Burn. We were scammed. I lost $400, and my son's Christmas turned from being happy and joyous, to total devastation.

Sellers think they're sneaky by re-sealing items. Resealing is easy to do, no matter how nice the packing looks, open it. Scammers think "The buyer thinks it's never been opened, my packaging looks just like it did when it left the store, they'll never know that the real item isn't in this box". This is common scam, and it happens any time of the year, but Holidays are the worst. OPEN ALL SEALED ITEMS and TEST THEM.


Fake checks are limitless when it comes to scammers. They're easy to steal from people, and they're easy to print and make fakes that the average person wouldn't be able to tell weren't real. No matter their excuse, cash only. And trust me they will use every excuse in the book to try and get you to take a check.

  • Don't accept cashier/certified checks or money orders - banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.

Never wire money thru Western Union or any others. If someone is asking you to send money, it's a scam.

Never Ship Whether buying or selling, never offer to ship or buy something that needs shipping. Only buy locally. Scam for sure.

Never Use Paypal to buy anything. It's an easy scam and even easier to get their money back from paypal.

Different Country. What!!! Never deal with anyone who says their from another country or state. Again Deal locally only.

REAL ESTATE. There is also a huge list of scams for real estate, whether buying, renting, house sitting, etc. I have heard of them, but haven't researched it in depth. I have seen horror stories on the news of people losing everything they own. Please if you are looking to rent, buy, swap, anything dealing with real estate please google Craigslist Real Estate Scams and arm yourself.

Moving Companies. If you are planning to hire a moving company off craigslist make sure to get their business license, call your county's public records and verify it, look on the BBB to make sure no complaints. Fake moving companies have happened and there goes the entire contents of ones home.


  • Never give out your personal information to someone over the computer. Believe it or not many will if they think it may get them a job. Only give personal info in person, in a legit job setting.
  • Set up an email account just for craigslist job inquiry. That way if it's a scam and it's just to get your email to spam you with junk mail, your main account isn't flooded with spam.
  • Never send your resume right away. Call and make sure it's a real company first, and that they asked for it. It has a lot of your personal information on it.
  • Never send a picture. This is a huge one. Ads will say they are looking for personal assistants, please send a picture for this. If they want a picture of you I don't want to know what kind of personal assistance they are really wanting, get my drift!
  • Pictures needed for modeling, talent scout, etc. NEVER send pictures. If it is a legitimate company they will meet you in person at a real business to get your details and see you in person. Then if they ask for a picture ok. But make sure it's a real company first and you understand why they need it.
  • Never meet a "so called" employer anywhere other than their business. Make sure it's a real business first as well. A simple Google check of the address will tell you.
  • Never meet after hours.
  • Never meet a "so called" employer for drinks or dinner for an interview.
  • Go with your instincts, if it sounds unprofessional, run.
  • RESEARCH every company thoroughly. Just because they have a facebook account or a LinkedIn doesn't make them real. Google them. If you can't find creditable information about the company/business there's a reason. Run


Cell phones are one of the most sold items on craigslist, therefore making them the highest target for scammers. I don't know all the technicalities for cell phones so please do a Google Search for buying a used phone on craigslist. There are tons of sites telling you what to check for to make sure they are going to be usable after buying them. Anyone can sell a used or stolen phone, so do your research before buying a used cell phone any where!!!


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