How to Use Craigslist Safely

Is Craigslist Safe for Buying, Selling, Dating, Employment, Services or Housing?

Since the start of in 1996, Craigslist has become a local resource for finding just about anything. This includes all of the items above and more. However because for the most part Craigslist is a completely free service, this has also made it a haven for criminals, scam artists, con-men, psychos, killers and in general some pretty weird people. This has led many people to the question of - Is Craigslist Safe?

Asking if Craigslist is safe is like asking if driving is safe. Not really a question that can be answered literally without many qualifying explanations. This means that how safe Craigslist is depends on how safely the user navigates the site and responds to ads and inquires. We will help you know what to look out for and how to stay safe on Craigslist, which minus the dangerous stuff, is a great tool for searching for anything local.

Craigslist Account


The first gate that Craigslist uses to ensure safe ads and posting is by requiring anyone who wishes to post to setup a user account. As CL says on their help page, accounts make it easier to post, edit, delete, repost and track ads. They however also allow Craigslist to track which accounts are posting what ads, as opposed to anonymous posting which would make tracking much more difficult.

This however is a just a baby step in keeping Craigslist safe, as it is very easy to setup an account. All that is required is a valid email which can be obtained for free. Craigslist will track accounts and even particular ad content and uses an algorithm in order to prevent, spam, duplicate posting, over posting and posting in multiple cities.



Craigslist Phone Verification & Phone Verified Accounts (PVAs)

A more serious safety step Craigslist takes is requiring phone verification for posting certain items or for posting in certain areas. Craigslist does this by requiring the user to input their phone number into, in return they can request a phone call or text with a secret code which is used to verify the account. The Craigslist account now becomes a phone verified account or (PVA) which makes posting easier and faster. Be wary of scams that try to get you to verify an account using your phone number. Check out our Scams page for more info and how to spot these scams.

Craigslist Flagging

Flagging on Craigslist

Flags and community moderation is an important part of keeping Craigslist safe. Flagging on craigslist works by allowing the community to police posts based on CL Terms of Use. These means that if users believe a post to be in violation of craigslist guidelines, they can flag the post by clicking on one of the flagging links at the upper right corner of each posting. There are 4 flagging categories to choose from. They are listed below with descriptions.

•miscategorized - wrong category/site, discusses another ad, otherwise misplaced
•prohibited - violates craigslist Terms of Use or other posted guidelines
•spam/overpost - posted too often, in multiple cities/categories, or too commercial
•best of craigslist - (check out our Best Of Craigslist page for more info)

Simply because one user flags an ad does not mean that Craigslist takes it down. It takes many flags from multiple users and although the exact formula has not been shared, it is also believed to be based on category, city and history of account.

Flagging on Craigslist can also be a frustrating concern for businesses attempting to use Craigslist to advertise. Competitors have been known to flag competing company ads. The CL community has also been known to go on flagging parties or raids. This has led to an entire sub industry of paying for professional Craigslist posting, Craigslist auto posting tools and Craigslist auto flagging tools. There is also a market for Craigslist ad templates and design, along with landing pages and redirects for Craigslist marketing.

Craigslist Ghosting Phenomenon

There is also a mysterious phenomenon called Craigslist Ghosting which is unlike flagging in that under the Craigslist account the ad will show up as active but the ad will not show up in classified search results. This is a result of removal by CL staff or automated systems. Ghosting can be linked to individual ad content, cities, categories and sometimes entire accounts. Little is known about ghosting but it does exist.

Craigslist Personals, Dates, & Women

One of the most notoriously dangerous, scam ridden and illegal areas on Craigslist is the Craigslist Personals section. This includes the basic dating categories as well as the popular missed connections and casual encounters. Local authorities have continually tried to shut this portion of Craigslist down due to the large amount of prostitution and other illegal activity that occurs. While there are some successful dating stories and even a pseudo-realty show for missed connections on Craigslist TV, for the most part, this portion of craigslist is very dangerous and should be used with caution.

Craigslist PayPal

Is PayPal Safe For Craigslist?

PayPal is an international ecommerce business owned by eBay that allows payments and money transfers to be made through the internet. While there are obviously legitimate ways to use PayPal outside of eBay, Craigslist is one that should be preceded with great caution. There are numerous money transfer scams on Craigslist and basic personal PayPal accounts provide very little protection to the user. The safe way to accept payment when using Craigslist is in person money or trade in hand.