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7 Tips to Avoiding Scams on Craigslist

Craigslist might have a reputation for being potentially sketchy, but there are some good deals on products and services -- if you're careful how you go about finding them. Here, Scambook gives you 10 tips on avoiding Craigslist scams.

1. Trust your instincts. The number one rule is to trust gut instincts going into any transaction. If a Craigslist ad seems phony, don’t proceed.

2. Stay local. Craigslist is designed to be city/region specific and if anyone makes up any excuses for why they cannot meet, it’s a red flag. Remember that scammers tend to lie.

3. Avoid wire transfers, cashier's checks and money orders. These are huge red flags. If something goes awry when making a wire transfer (through Western Union or MoneyGram for example), the money will not be protected. Exchange cash instead. Checks and money orders can bounce, leaving consumers with bank fees, possible legal action, and no money. Large transactions can be performed in a bank where money can be withdrawn and deposited right away.

4. Never use online escrow. If someone insists on using an escrow website, cancel the transaction immediately. Online escrow sites are normally run by scammers.

5. Don't commit without seeing the good in person. Make sure an item is up to standards and be cautious of those willing to buy an item without seeing it first. A common Craigslist scam involves a “buyer” sending too large a check, asking for it to be deposited, and wanting the difference to be deposited via Western Union. After the money is wired, the bank can discover the counterfeit check and the “seller” is stuck paying.

6. Don't fall for job scams. Be wary of “employers” who don’t require an interview and make sure to visit the job’s physical location prior to sending personal information such as a credit/background check. Any job that requires an upfront payment, involves “working from home” without detail, and job offers for secret shopping, international shipping management, foreign financial transfers, and survey-taking are almost always a scam. Learn more about job scams.

7. Use a counterfeit detection pen. This pen’s ink will change color on wood-based paper, allowing consumers to detect fake bills because real money is printed on fiber-based paper. Visit a nearby office supply store or buy one online for $5.

8. Craigslist doesn't certify listings. Anyone who claims to be “certified” or “guaranteed” by Craigslist is likely a scammer. Craigslist has no verification or screening process. Be aware of language such as “buyer protection,” “seller certification” and “Craigslist payment services.”

9. Research the buyer/seller. Use both Scambook and Google to search someone by their name, email, or business name. Make sure their identity is not an alias and that this person comes up clean. More tips for safely selling on Craiglist.

10. Don't give out any more personal information than necessary. Don’t release any personal information in a public listing. The only personal information consumers need to list in a Craigslist ad could be a phone number. Google Voice allows the creation of a free disposable phone number. If someone needs to retrieve an item from a home address, due to the item’s size, put the item outside and do not let the buyer inside.

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