Because of the nature of anonymity on the Internet–you don’t always know for sure who you’re speaking with unless you know that person personally and even then, someone could be masquerading as a close friend or family member–scams are a matter of fact. And on platforms where that kind of option is available, people who want to, no pun intended, scam the system will flock to that platform. Craigslist isn’t any different.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, then you need to act now.
Part 1: Reporting to Craigslist
1. On the page itself, click Flag located near the top of the post. Your single flag may not catch the attention of Craigslist, but enough flags will subject the post to an automatic removal.
2. Your next step is to contact Craigslist. Send them an email that will be sent directly to them. There’s a contact form you can fill out.
Part 2: Reporting to Your Local Law Enforcement
Every state has different laws pertaining to the situation. For example, if someone’s offering an apartment for rent that they don’t own–people like to pull pictures from other websites and pass it off as theirs–then in just about every state, that’s illegal. Depending on your state laws, you can get in touch with your local law enforcement to make something happen.
1. Research state laws. Again, every state is different. Some laws may apply different depending on where you live.
2. Collect any and all information regarding the situation.
3. Get in touch with your local law enforcement.
Part 3: Reporting to the FBI
On the same note as Part 2, you should also take the time to get in touch with the FBI.
1. Collect any and all information regarding the situation.
2. Head over to IC3, which is a government website, and click File a Complaint.
3. Fill out the form and send it on its way. Make sure you follow up, too. The longer you wait, the more opportunities scammers have to scam others.
Part 4: Reporting to the Federal Trade Commission
The FTC Complaint Assistant is more of a database that collects information rather than solves it. It even says so on their site that their database of information helps “…detect patterns of fraud and abuse.”
1. Head over to the FTC Complaint Assistant homepage. Click on Internet Services, Online Shopping or Computers on the left hand side.
2. When presented with options, choose Online Shopping.
3. Fill out the form presented.
Hints of a Craigslist Scam
Craigslist, as great as it can be (who doesn’t love a great deal?), it’s unfortunate that its platform can and does have individuals looking to scam someone out of money. Of course, this isn’t an intentional feature of Craigslist or else it wouldn’t exist. Instead, it’s more of an indirect byproduct. Craigslist’s website is a platform for people to sell items, whether new or old, and with that in mind, it leaves open a window–a very small window, but a window nonetheless–for scammers to abuse the system.
You might be thinking that catching scammers is impossible. On the surface? Perhaps. When you examine it under a lens? You start to see a pattern that scammers all seem to conform to. In fact, once you understand the hints that point to a scam, you’ll find it’s rather easy to pick out a scammer and only the very smart scammers would be able to swindle a few dollars out of someone. That window is even smaller than the window paint-by-numbers scammers jump through.
A common thread in a Craigslist scam is the seller or buyer making it known that they “trust” you. They might tell you a couple times and you might even think, “Oh, they trust a stranger. Maybe I should trust them.” They’ll go out of their way to make the deal sound so good. Here’s a rule of thumb: if it’s too good to be true, then it definitely is. You’ll have more success avoiding a sketchy deal than attempting to make one.
With that being said, what are the hints that you can pick up on?
Refusing a Phone Call
Buyers and or dealers won’t speak on the phone. This is the 21st century. Everyone has a phone, even a cheap one. And if someone is trying to sell something and they just so happen to be without a phone, they’ll get in touch with a friend who does have one. Let’s also not forget that if someone doesn’t have a phone, they probably have a computer or a tablet and there’s plenty of services out there, both paid for and free, that people can install to make calls. There are tons of different avenues people can use to phone a person, whether through a physical device or software.
You do NOT want to engage with a deal when the other person refuses to speak on the phone. Now, it’s true that some people are really awkward on the phone, but even then you’ll still find people who will work past that to make the deal happen.
The Dealer Sends You an Online Escrow Service to Use
Let’s be clear with one fact: legitimate online escrow services are a good thing. If you are buying a product, you can use an online escrow service to protect your funds until the item you’re buying has been confirmed and is exactly what you are buying.
So, why is it a hint at a scam? Because the deal sent you an online escrow service that they want you to use. That is a no-no. NEVER use an online escrow service that a dealer redirects you to, even if it’s one that’s legitimate. Websites can be copied and it can be used against you. There are some clever people out there and the “escrow service” they send you could be a clever device to funnel your cash out of your wallet. You won’t get your money back, nor will you get your item. You’ve been scammed.
“Half Now and then Half Later” Partial Payment Scam
If you’re shaking on a deal with a distant seller, you’ll know immediately that it’s scam if they ask you to pay half now and the other half when you get the item. This is a scam, plain and simple. They’ll tell you how much they trust you and that they’ve already shipped your item to you.
Run from the deal, especially if the deal is too good to be true, a deal that’ll make you feel stupid if you passed up. Quite frankly, you will be if you go forward with a deal like that. The “half now and half later” partial payment deal is reserved for close friends and family, people you can usually trust. It isn’t a good deal to make with strangers on the Internet.
A Seller Requests Payment with a Wiring Service
On the same note as the previous payment scam, but on a different note. If someone asks you to pay through a wire service, you have every reason to back out of the deal because they’re looking to scam you. You’ll have twice the reasons if they tell you they’re “traveling” and the only way they can get the money at the moment is through a wire transfer.
Can you hear the buzzer going off in your head? Then you have a good instinct. If it didn’t, then be joyful that you are more knowledgeable.
“My Buddy Will Pay You”
Often times when you’re looking to sell something, especially a car, the buyer will want to pay you more, sometimes twice as much of what you’re asking for. Sounds great, right? But then it doesn’t sound so good when they tell you their “buddy” will pay you, usually with a cashier’s check.
You might be thinking, “That doesn’t sound terrible.” Until you go to cash your cashier’s check and–whoops!–it’s a fake.
Putting it All Together…
Now that you’ve got a really good idea of what scams are like, here’s an example of a real scam sent to a Craigslist user:
“First of all I want to thank you for your interest for my car. I sell it at this price($2,980.00 ) because I have been divorced recently. Now the car is in my property and as a woman i don’t need it. This car is in excellent working conditions, no scratches, flaws or any kind of damage, slightly used in 100% working and looking conditions and comes with a clear title.
From the beginning you have to know that for the payment I request only secure pay, I prefer the payment to be done using eBay services. We will use a safe payment method because I am affiliated at eBay and I have a purchase protection account for $20,000.00 The final price that I want for this car is $2,980.00 including shipping and handling.
If you are interested in buying it please provide me your full name and address so I can initiate the deal through eBay.
I will wait your answer very soon.”
What jumps out the most in the example above? Is it the fact that she insists on using eBay to make the deal? Then you’d be right. In fact, she insists on using eBay because she works there, and making it a point to make the car sound way better than it probably is, if the car even exists in the first place.
Take what you’ve learned here and apply it to all of your Craigslist deals.