Craigslist is a robust marketplace that is ripe with deals, but it can also be a dark and scary place because of the cesspool of scammers constantly after your money. Some of the most common scams grossing the most money include rental and car buyer/seller scams.
A common rental scam involves criminals duplicating advertisements for properties and offering them at a lower price. They usually provide an excuse as to why they are unable to show the property in person and offer to send photos instead. The potential client is then asked to wire transfer money for the rental.
Another rental scams involves the scammer getting the would-be tenant to purchase a credit report. The individual thinks they are showing their suitability as a future tenant, however, there isn’t any property to rent and the scammer gets commission from the credit report site.
A third scam involves a “realtor service” company that requires a fee be paid to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties even though the company is not associated to the properties that are listed.
There are many different types of car buying and selling scams. One of the more common scams relates to fake money where the con artist provides fraudulent checks or money orders. Once the car is handed over, the check bounces or turns out to be fraudulent.
Another common scam involves sending a car buyer to an online escrow service to do a “safe transaction”. In reality, the funds are sent to a fake escrow account and the seller walks away with the buyer’s money with no car exchanging hands.
Common Red Flags and How to Protect Yourself
With the high volume of scams on Craigslist, it’s impossible to effectively police the website. However, the best defence against being scammed is to your educate yourself. Look for these common red flags to protect you against the vast majority of scams:
- Don’t rent or purchase a property without seeing it first. Watch for individuals that give you an excuse why they can’t show you a property, such as because they are doing missionary work outside the country. They may offer to send you photos instead and encourage you to drive by the property.
- Don’t offer payment to an individual that you have never seen in person. Don’t fall for sellers that offer to ship you a product. Meet the individual in person before parting with your money.
- Don’t email transfer or wire money to anyone. For example, if someone states that the method of payment they require is via Western Union, you are about to be scammed.
- Don’t accept money order or checks (cashier/certified). Banks will cash fraudulent checks and hold you financially responsible.
- Never provided financial information or visit third-party sites. Users may require you to provide your bank account, credit card or PayPal account information either directly to them or via a third-party website.
- Don’t agree to background or credit checks until you meet the individual in person. Scammers often get a cut from the credit company or walk away with your private information.
If you think you’ve been scammed, or before investing, contact the experts at Investigation Hotline!