Craigslist can be a very dangerous place. Whether you’re buying, selling, looking for a new job, hunting for an apartment to rent, or just giving away an old book shelf, scammers will always be thinking up new schemes to defraud you.

Scams on Craigslist may lead to robbery, vandalized property, identity theft, harassment, or even physical assaults. Always trust your instincts and never do business with someone if you don’t feel safe.

So the next time you buy or sell on Craigslist, follow the 10 tips outlined in this article to stay safe and avoid being scammed.


10 Tips to Avoid Being Scammed

1. STAY LOCAL. Craigslist is designed to be local, which is why the site is divided into regional and city-specific listings. Never do business with anyone in another state or country, or anyone who makes a lot of excuses about why they can’t meet you in person. Scammers frequently lie about being missionaries, being in the military, taking care of a sick elderly relative or working for a multinational corporation to “explain” why they’re abroad. Don’t believe their stories.

Craigslist states on their support page that if you only deal locally with people you can meet in person, you’ll avoid 99% of scams.



2. AVOID WIRE TRANSFERS, CASHIER’S CHECKS AND MONEY ORDERS. It’s a huge red flag if someone wants to send or receive payment through the mail. Anyone who suggests a wire transfer (like Western Union or MoneyGram), a cashier’s check or a money order is most likely trying to scam you.

Photo of Western Union International Money Wire Transfer Office

Never conduct business with someone who wants to pay via wire transfer such as Western Union or MoneyGram. There’s no way to get your money back after you send it.

When you conduct a transaction using one of these methods, you’re not protected if things go south. If you’re buying an item that proves to be defective (or even nonexistent), you won’t be able to get your money back after it’s sent.

Also, if you accept a cashier’s check or money order as payment for a sale and it doesn’t clear, you will be held liable to pay your bank the full amount — plus any bank fees. Even worse, you may even face legal problems.

Cash is the only secure currency for Craigslist transactions. If you’re dealing with a large amount of money and the buyer or seller isn’t comfortable handling so much cash in a public place, meet at a bank and make the transaction inside the building. The money can be withdrawn and then deposited right there in the bank.


3. BE CAUTIOUS WHEN USING ONLINE ESCROW. Be cautious when the buyer or seller wants to use an online escrow service. Many scammers use fake escrow sites that may look like the real thing. Watch out for red flags such as poor spelling and domain spoofing. Never send financial information online unless the website displays a secure “https://” URL.


4. DON’T COMMIT WITHOUT SEEING THE GOODS IN PERSON. You might end up with an item that’s broken, not as described, or doesn’t exist at all. If you’re selling, be very cautious of a buyer who is eager to purchase your items sight-unseen. This is a big flag, especially if you’re selling something really valuable.

One common Craigslist scam involves a “buyer” who sends you a money order or cashier’s check, which is much higher than the agreed-upon price because they “made a mistake.” The scammer asks you to deposit it and send them the price difference via Western Union. After you’ve wired the money, the bank discovers it’s a counterfeit check and you’re responsible for paying it. By then, your own money is long gone.


5. DON’T FALL FOR JOB SCAMS. If you’re looking for a job on Craigslist, you should be very careful about anyone who’s willing to hire you without an interview. Even if you’re applying for jobs that involve telecommuting, research the company just to be safe. Make sure they have a physical location near you and visit their offices before you provide any private information for a credit/background check.

Never accept a job on Craigslist for secret shopping, international shipping management, foreign financial transfers, survey-taking, anything that requires you to pay money, or anything that simply involves “working from home” without going into greater detail. These types of “jobs” are almost always a scam.



6. USE A COUNTERFEIT DETECTION PEN. A counterfeit detection pen will allow you to find out if someone is trying to pay you in phony bills. These pens use a special iodine ink that changes color when applied to wood-based paper (real money is printed on fiber-based paper used exclusively by the government). You can find counterfeit detection pens at most office supply stores, or online, for around $5.


7. REMEMBER, CRAIGSLIST DOESN’T CERTIFY LISTINGS. Craigslist has no verification or screening process for transactions. If anyone claims to be “certified” or “guaranteed” by Craigslist, they’re almost certainly trying to scam you. Scammers frequently lie to get you to trust them.

There is no such thing as “Craigslist buyer protection,” “Craigslist seller certification” or “Craigslist payment services.” Avoid anyone who uses these phrases or similar language.


8. RESEARCH THE BUYER/SELLER. Use Scambook and Google. Search for their name, email address, business or any other personal information they’ve provided. If this person has ever scammed anyone (or attempted to scam anyone) using the same information, it’s probably been reported online.

Just remember that scammers often use many different aliases. Even if your search comes up clean, you should still keep an eye out for any red flags and follow Scambook’s other 9 Tips.


Photo of a Hand Carrying Passport, Identification Cards

Does someone selling an old couch need to know your date of birth? Remember, identity thieves may be lurking on Craigslist. Never give out more personal information than absolutely necessary.

9. DON’T GIVE OUT MORE PERSONAL INFORMATION THAN NECESSARY. When you sell on Craigslist, don’t include any personal information (name, address, phone number) in your public listing. No one needs to know anything about you unless they’re buying whatever you’re selling.

Then, even after you’ve agreed to the transaction, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to share more than your phone number. For extra protection, create a free disposable phone number using Google Voice:

Never invite the buyer to your home unless it’s absolutely necessary. If they need to come to your home to pick up a large piece of furniture, for example, move the furniture to your front lawn or open garage and don’t let them inside. Make sure you’re not home alone and tell your neighbors you’re expecting a buyer.


10. TRUST YOUR GUT. As we’ve said before, always follow your instincts. If something seems like it isn’t right, or someone makes you uncomfortable for any reason, just walk away.


What Are Your Experiences on Craigslist?

Have you bought, sold or traded items on Craigslist? Tell us about your experience in the comments and share any safety tips of your own!


See Also

Don’t Get Scammed on Craigslist: 3 New Anti-Fraud Safety Tips
Beware “Reshipping” Job Scam on Sites like Craigslist, LinkedIn and CareerBuilder
5 Reasons Why Anyone Can Be Scammed

Article sources


Image sources


About The Author

Miranda Perry is the staff writer for, where she blogs about consumer issues, fraud and cyber security. She hopes to inspire readers to think critically about the world around them and take action to improve their lives.

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35 Responses

  1. Donna

    Another tip, whenever I get a response or a email that seems fishy, I check it again to see if others have reported it. Because what I have found is scammer will response to your listing just to get a list of valid email address to send spam to.

  2. Karen love

    I got scammed by Jennifer Sutton what can I do if anyone knows anything please let me know thanks…

  3. CJ

    Had a item for sale and a “Marvin Shimpson” contacted me and wanted to pay by pay pal. That seemed good, UNTIL the supposed email receipt from pay pal instructions stated to go to Western Union and pay $650. Well that was a deal breaker. Beware of people like Marvin folks.

  4. NB

    Yes… I had someone try to scam a car sale saying they would send a check and that they were a middle man. They did the old… “I trust you” scam. I almost fell for it… its very true it needs to be a local deal. If they can’t come in person noway!

  5. Stan

    Thanks for the nice article. Here is what has happened to me yesterday. I have posted an item on Craigslist for sale. Then I received response from “carmen stetson” whose e-mail address was [email protected] and because I did not deal with that site for a long time, I thought this is new security feature. I was asked to call a specific local number. The women confirmed she is interested and we have setup a date and time (evening). She provided me with her cell phone number and asked me to send my address as a response to that e-mail. So, I did and when the time came, she would call that she cannot make it and said she works night shifts. So, I suggested to call me during my work time and I have given her address close to my work. Since she did not call, I called her myself but the same person (by voice) told me this is wrong number. Hence, I called the cell phone – got message that the number is not in service. Now, I am worry about security of my home. What can I do now? Thank you.

  6. DAW

    Think I had two scammers today trying to do what was done to @CJ (above). I had an article for sale and two different “scammers” (who also had Google Voice numbers… I called them) would only discuss the transaction via SMS. One was “off-shore” and the other was in a “bad coverage area.” Anyway, all they wanted was my PayPal address so that they could send payment and then they would have a “representative” come over an pick up my item. Seemed REALLY strange. Anyway, here is a transcript of one of the SMS’s:

    >> Thank you for your response,i am Teresa Garcia,from North Bend Or US Army. Veteran Military Rank.I would have wish to come over and inspect this at your place,but I am presently off-shore.I am Okay with your advert price and just make sure it in great condition as said. I will appreciate more pictures if available and will be sending your money asap.My shipper will be available to pick this up as soon as payment is made.Do you have PayPal account?cos i have a PayPal account that I can send money through.It good for business payments.Ama like you message me with your full name and pp email address and also confirm this sale to me by deleting the advert Off CL. Regards

    All thanks for sharing this stuff! I’m usually not very gullible, but this one really had me wondering just what the scam could possibly be (since they were offering to send me money by PayPal before I would have to part with my item for sale.)


    • shawn watson

      I had the same situation happen to me. They say that they put extra money in your PayPal account and they need you to send a money gram to their pickup agent before your account can be credited.

    • Sarah formel

      I had almost the exact thing! I posted my husbands cell # on my ad and this guy kept texting him over and over; even though I kept answering his text that we would only accept cash and he has to come and see the item! It went on for weeks! He wanted to pay through paypal; we refused. It was almost exactly the same as your scam!

  7. Jillian Dobbs

    I checked out a CL ad for interior design job. Got an email from Sara L. at asking me to fill out an application. To get to the application I would have to use the link she provided, she said it was secure. ALARMS RING when she said it was only good for 24 hrs. Is that because she don’t want give me time to get this to the police and have them track her down?
    SHADY business if anyone tries to pressure you saying you gotta buy or apply so fast. I aint even curious bout what happens when you press that link. NOT gonna tell any shyster where I live or how they can steal my identity.

  8. Jamie Barringer

    I had one tonight that was an interesting variation on the usual cashier’s check scam- a woman “Megan Hall” out of cell-phone range in Guam, with two kids ages 10 and 16 somehow here in town with a hired driver available to take them to tutoring sessions. I am a tutor, and she wants to send me a cashier’s check for a whole month at 6hrs/wk for me to tutor her kids, but with no mention of subjects the kids need help with, or during what hours their tutoring needs to take place. In addition, the emails from this person are written in very poor English from someone who has a tough time with plural nouns and case agreement. Megan’s email ([email protected]) has no relation to her stated name, either, and looks rather random. I seriously doubt “Megan” will want to send ‘her’ kids to my next open office hours for tutoring, cash payment only, at the public library.

    • Miranda Perry

      Hi Jamie, glad you followed your instincts! Everything you mention definitely sounds like this person was trying to scam you. Thanks for sharing your encounter.

      • Maria

        I got that email too!! I am super tempted to write back to her and say “Hey! You are on!” but I don’t want her putting my email address out over the internet everywhere…

    • Mandy

      I also received the same email. Thank-you for posting because when I googled the email address it brought me here.

  9. Gaunt Dusk

    In my opinion the best sign that it’s probably a scam or instantly tells you it could be a scam is when the individual tells you to take the CL ad down. I almost got scammed with that wire transfer thing. Deposited the fake check and refused to wire the money to them till the check cleared, never did and my account got frozen but I lost no money and was able to take out my money from my account after a week and transferred to a new bank. Pretty much no consequences other than some major irritation.
    The scammers also like to say they’re a nurse, or a doctor, usually female.

  10. Thien

    I am currently selling some high end furniture for my aunt. I had a James Williams email me yesterday that he wants to gk ahead and purchase and will have movers come. And asked my aunt to set up a paypal acct. So I didn’t think anything of it. Then I had a “noblelife01@gmail-mike” email about same listing saying he’s a marine biologist offshore but wants to go ahead and purchase through paypal. So I didn’t think anything of it either. But this morning I’ve received 2 other ppl who said to email them at their personal email, which I did and then they requested to buy thru paypal. Should I disregard all of them? Bc I told my aunt to set up a paypal acct but I haven’t given the info to “james williams”.

    • Miranda Perry

      Hi Thien, it definitely sounds like you’re receiving some suspicious emails. I’d recommend that you ignore these offers — a serious buyer would want to inspect any high-end furniture in person before committing to a deal, so the fact that these individuals are agreeing to buy it right away (especially when they’re based “off shore”) suggests that they’re attempting to scam you. As for PayPal, check out our article on this eBay/PayPal Scam that describes how con artists use a phony PayPal email to rip off sellers. Thanks for your comment and good luck!

      • Jen

        What is your advice on buying concert tickets on CL, when the buyer is agreeing to meet you in a public place?

  11. DefenseAttorney

    I dont agree with using non-cash methods. A seller from Craigslist sold a item to a buyer in DC then said the buyer held him at gunpoint and took the tablet. He not only kept the money put an innocent in jail. we are trying to fight the case.

    Has anyone had the same incident happen? This was done by non black / non white offender

  12. Dana

    I found a good deal on a piece of exercise equipment in a neighboring state. However, the seller only accepts cash or cashier’s checks. Seems straightforward, but I don’t know about this. Large transaction.

      • Dana

        Thanks. I was considering it until I asked the name of the company and was told the make the check out to his wife.
        The photos of the equipment appear to be legit, but something doesn’t seem right about all of this.

  13. Joyce

    Some emailed trying to buy I posted at craiglist and claimed that he is a marine biologist and he has to travel and can only pay me the $100k through PayPal . Realllly???????? Lol

  14. Alan

    I just re-posted a washer & dryer and received several nearly identical queries about my “item”. When I said they were still for sale, I got a couple of similar automated responses (showed up nearly simultaneous to my reply) that started with, “Thanks for the prompt response i want you to know that am okay with the condition of the item and i will love to make an instant purchase. I will be mailing a certified check…” Each one asks for my name, address and phone number. Too many grammar errors for me, and too rapid a reply to be legit. Kinda creepy.

  15. nick

    Almost got caught in a scam but boy am I glad I did my homework. I responded to a job posting for a manufacturing inspection job. was foolish enough to provide my address to ” make sure I was a good candidate since they dont want to hire people out of a certain mile radius” and was then instructed to deposit a cashiers check, keep x amount, and wire the rest to some other dude in the Philippines. I have never met either two of these people, and none of the work they want me to do is even closely related to to manufacturing inspection work. not to mention the cashiers check is from St. Luis, it was mailed from Texas, the company is supposedly located in California, and the money is supposed to go to another country. Pretty shady if you ask me. I’m just concerned because they have my address now.

  16. Cassie

    I have just been the victim of a scam… I bought a Kindle Fire HDX off Craigslist for. $250. Met up with the seller in person, paid cash…I even verified that the Kindle was new. Didn’t think I needed to do anything else. Went to register it, and guess what?? Stolen device! I am sick. Worst part is, I contacted the scammer, and he accused me of lying! He gave me this story about how he got it as a gift from his aunt and didn’t want it, etc… I am going to the sheriff tomorrow to report the theft. I’m just sick though…it was a surprise for my husband and now, I have no surprise, and no money. Take from my bad experience…if you buy something electronic, make sure to check the serial number before purchasing it!

  17. Sarah

    I don’t know if anyone can help me, but I put a oversized chair on Craigslist, no pic. I said it has lots of damage from a dog. I got an email from Emmanuel Garcia he then said to email him back at a different address. Also said he was using a system for the deaf. I have received a check for 1900 dollars. I was asking 20 for the chair. He said to take 70 and then the rest goes to the shipper. The check is a business check called Bennett pump company. I’m pretty sure it’s a scam. But wanted to be sure. Thanks.

  18. Steve

    Some guy who has google phone number wants to send me a check have me cash it. Make sure it clears, then says he overpaid me and wants me to wire the over payment to a shipping company to pick the item up. says he is on the east coast I am on the west coast smells like a scam to me. Should I wait for the check to come and contact the police?

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