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Craigslist Scams: Buyers & Sellers

What just happened to a Dyersburg, TN, woman warrants another #WiseWarning about the use of the global buy, sell & trade site.

Frances Christian’s email to got right to the point.

“I just listed a pair of diamond earrings on Craigslist,” Christian wrote. “The buyer used fake payday (currency), saying he had deposited the money, but of course, he hadn’t. He has the earrings. I have nothing.”

Nothing’s worse than learning you’ve been suckered on a social network, and those are the key words: “social network.” Because that’s where your understanding of Craigslist should start. That’s all Craigslist is — one big, global bulletin board where anyone can list or post anything. It’s still YOUR responsibility to verify the truth of what’s posted — and who’s posting.

In Frances’s case, she should have verified the buyer was who he said he was…physical location, Craigslist rating (yes, the site tracks reviews and behavior of buyers and sellers and discloses them to users). I didn’t ask Frances, but I bet the buyer had her ship those earrings to a post office box, UPS Store box or some other location that would shield his actual location. And “fake payday?” What is “payday?” A form of bitcoin? A payday loan advance? Either way, neither is a legitimate method of currency in this Craigslist transaction or any transaction for that matter.

With the help of Skip Press, former editor of Entertainment Monthly & author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Money on Craigslist, these are the most common Craigslist buyer and seller scams.


* BUYERS WHO OFFER TO PAY MORE THAN THE ASKING PRICE. This scam usually involves some tricky story, like they’re getting a lump sum from an estate, or they made a mistake and mailed you an overpayment. They want you to send a check back for the difference. DON’T DO IT.

BUYERS WHO ASK YOU TO SHIP YOUR PRODUCT BEFORE THEY PAY FOR IT. They say they need it for a special occasion, and they say they’ll wire you the money when it arrives.

* BUYERS WHO INSIST ON PAYING WITH BY CERTIFIED CHECK OR CASHIER’S CHECK. Sounds safe, right? Actually, those are the easiest to counterfeit. Don’t accept them.

Like I said about Frances’s situation, do not accept sketchy bitcoin-type currency and certainly not money claimed to be from a payday advance loan. If a buyer’s taking out a payday advance loan to buy your earrings, that’s a sign of a fiscally irresponsible buyer — which is also a sign of someone who’s prone to risky behavior. 


* VEHICLE SALE REQUIRING SHIPMENT AND/OR ESCROW. The scam artist claims the car is overseas, and you have to wire the money now to have it shipped or put the payment in escrow.

* STOLEN MERCHANDISE. If you’re considering a valuable item on Craigslist, ask the seller to send you proof of ownership, like the original receipt or owner’s manual. If the seller can’t prove ownership, drop it.

* FRAUDULENT HOUSING. The dead give-away on this one is when the seller asks for a rental deposit by wire transfer. Turns out the rental is really a house for sale, and the seller has no connection to it at all. It’s typically an address lifted straight from a realtor’s MLS listing or from a classified ad.

With something as valuable as diamond earrings, Frances Christian should have only dealt with Craigslist buyers who could purchase the earrings with a legitimate, verifiable payment method. That would preferably be a local buyer who would agree to meet at a safe, public, neutral location like a park or parking lot to conduct a cash or check transaction. 

That reminds me: you also shouldn’t accept gift cards, iTunes cards or Walmart green dot cards as payment methods, whether you’re buying or selling. Those are used to launder the payment and make it impossible to trace it to the scammer.

Unfortunately for Frances, those diamond earrings are gone. LONG gone. Craigslist isn’t responsible for them. Craigslist only provides the VENUE for buy, sell or trade. It does not guarantee the safety or security of a transaction, nor should it or could it. Remember, it’s a global bulletin board. The university that puts up a cork bulletin board in the student union isn’t responsible for the bogus dorm sale someone pins on it, is it?

All poor Frances can do now is report what happened to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and wait in line — behind all the other suckers of the average social network.

Copyright 2019 Wise Choices TM. All rights reserved.


* AVOID VAGUE HEADLINES. Be specific. Always include size, brand or model name and the product’s condition. Don’t be sensational. Get to the point — and don’t use abbreviations people won’t understand!

* BE CAREFUL USING PHOTOS.  Unless you’re a pretty good photographer, photos can just as easily sink your sale as promote your product. Press says descriptions should be clear. If colors and patterns don’t come out well, then you’re better off using the written word.

* PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY. If you want a buyer to contact you by e-mail, Press says set up a SEPARATE e-mail account only for your Craigslist responses. Don’t direct them to your common e-mail account!

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