Guide to Scams on Craigslist

Craigslist scams help to ruin what is otherwise a culture changing phenomenon

Craigslist is ridden with scams and cons which threatens the validity and viability of the site on a daily basis. Due to the free nature of the site, it has become a haven for criminals locally and internationally, even popularizing the Nigerian Craigslist Scam. Knowing what the most common scams are will help you avoid them. For more tips on how to avoid scams and fraud on Craigslist see below.

Craigslist Scams


Learn what they are so you can spot and avoid.

Craigslist Job & Employment Scams

Unfortunately in this economy job seekers not only have to deal with scarcity of jobs but also Craigslist jobs scams. Although Craigslist charges to post jobs in 19 cities it is free to post in the remaining 551 cities Craigslist serves. There are 33 job categories which means there are 18,183 sections for potential Craigslist employment scams.

Craigslist scammers typically use the job category to extract money similar to how they do in the for sale section. That is by getting the applicant to deposit fake checks and then transfer money to the scammer's account. There is however an additional risk in the job section and that is of stealing the applicant's personal information. This personal information such as SSN, Credit Card numbers, etc., is then sold on the black market or used by the scammer directly for identity theft and other fraudulent activity. Less scam and more of a time waster, there are also examples of affiliate link swaps and MLM or Startup kit businesses in the job section as well.

Craigslist Job Scams Credit Report

Credit report scams are perpetrated for 1 of 2 reasons. The first is to obtain personal information for identity theft. In this case never provide your personal information to a potential employer until you have been through a formal legitimate interview process. The other reason for this scam is for an affiliate to get you to sign up for a credit report service through their affiliate ID, and thus they receive commission. Do not do this unless you truly want this service, real employers will never require this.

Craigslist Personal Assistant, Nanny and Babysitting Scam

Each of these job scams takes a different twist on the same basic concept. The idea is to get the applicant to cash a fake check and then use some of the funds to pay wages, buy toys, etc., while transferring the balance back to the employer. The employer is always away or on long distance travel, etc. The check ends up being fake, which takes weeks to clear, and the "employee" has transferred some of their real money to the scammer. The bank will hold you responsible for the fake check. A legitimate employer will never ask you to transfer money back to them.

Craigslist Personals Scam

Craigslist Personals Scams

Craigslist dating scams which show up in every section of the personals section on Craigslist are a very basic scam that attempt to do one of two things. Scammers are either trying to obtain personal information for fraudulent purposes, or they are trying to get you to click on affiliate links and sign up for a service. The second is more common in this section, and can include dating website such as Ashley Madison or hardcore porn sites. If someone wants you to go to a website and input your information it's a scam, or at the very least not a real date.

Craigslist Housing Scams

The housing section on Craigslist is home to some of the most diverse and creative scams on Craigslist. Because of the high cash value of deposits, rent and moving expenses, this category on Craigslist is ridden with various scams that are both only online and in some cases dealing with physical property. Both landlords and potential tenants are at risk with these scams.

Craigslist Apartment & House for Rent Scams

There are a couple of different variations of this scam. The first is that the "landlord" will list a home or apartment at a price way below market and feature fake photos. They will then illegally collect deposits and fees from numerous parties without the real ability to rent the place out. This also happens where scammers will go as far as to break into an actual rental property and pose as the landlord or use a middleman to facilitate a similar situation. The other common version of this scam is on the landlord side and involves fake checks. The scammer "accidently" sends more than what the deposit is required and asks the landlord to transfer money back to them or someone else for numerous reasons, such as to help with moving expenses.

Craigslist Rental & Roommate Scams

The rental and roommate scams are aimed typically aimed at college students and homes in college areas. This includes exchanges students and people moving overseas, who cannot see the rental before moving there. In most cases this scam involves overpaying with a fake check and asking the landlord to transfer money. It is typical for the scammers to pose as attractive females and target males.

Craigslist Items For Sale Scams

Like the housing section on Craigslist, the for sale section has many scams to watch out for, particularly for high ticket items like cars, motorcycles, boats, tickets, and consumer electronics. Many are similar to what can be found in jobs and housing but some are unique based on the item.

Craigslist Car & Auto Scams

Craigslist car, auto and boat scams all typically involve an out of town buyer or seller. Fake and overpaid checks are also very common. Another common scam in the car section involves the use of a "Safe Deal" or verification through an escrow service or even Craigslist itself. The scammer then sends a phony link to a scam escrow site.

Craigslist Ticket Scams

Ticket scams come in two common variations. The first are simply fake tickets printed by the scammer. The second are real tickets that are purchased, sold to the victim and then cancelled by the scammer before they can be used.

Craigslist iPhone & iPad Scams

Apple product scams come in two common variations, the first involves advertising the newest generation iPhone, iPad or iPod product that is sold-out at the Apple store. When this happens the newest generation devices sell for a premium on sites like eBay and Craigslist. The scammer will then sell the buyer the older generation device in place. The other common iPad scam involves a "Free iPad Giveaway" which is aimed at either affiliate link swapping, stealing personal information or other fraudulent activity.

Craigslist Cell Phone Scams

Cell phone scams involve tricking the victim into entering a cell phone number and other information into a pay service website where they will be charged monthly.

Tips for Avoiding Craiglist Scams

Listed below are a few tips for avoiding scams on Craigslist. For more information be sure to check out the Craigslist about section and then navigate to scams.

Tip #1 - Always meet with buyer or seller in person and speak with them on the phone before meeting.

Tip #2 - Avoid checks, money orders, wire and online money transfers - they are almost always scams.

Tip #3 - Do not give out personal information, including SSN, credit card, bank numbers, account info.

Tip #4 - Avoid transactions that involve shipping, out of town people, 3rd parties or middleman.

Tip #5 - If you are buying or renting something make sure you see it in person, if you are selling or renting something ensure the buyer comes to look at it in person.

Tip #6 - When applying for jobs do not give out sensitive personal information, submit to credit checks, etc. without going through a legitimate formal interview process first.

Tip #7 - Do not input your account information or phone number into any site other than Craigslist. The same applies to PayPal and eBay.

Tip #8 - If someone "accidently" pays you more than the agreed upon price, asks for you to hold an item for an extended period of time or requests a 3rd party pick-up it is likely a scam.

Where Can I Report Scams, Scam Attempts, Fraud or Illegal Activity

Use the links below to report activity deemed to be a scam, fraud or illegal. This applies to elements outside of Craigslist as well.

U.S. Federal

Internet Fraud Complaint Center
FTC Video: How to report scams to the FTC
FTC online complaint form FTC toll free hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)
Consumer Sentinel/Military (for reports from services members or their families)
SIIA Software and Content Piracy reporting

Ohio Residents

Ohio Attorney General Consumer Complaints


Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or 888-495-8501 (toll-free)

If you are scammed by someone you met in person, contact your local police.