Scammers abound on Craigslist, so much so that the site has a whole page
devoted to how to spot them. Craigslist con artists often exhibit certain traits that will tip you off from their very first contact. Be alert for these three:
1) The person can’t meet you face to face for a variety of reasons.
They’ve moved after a nasty divorce, they’re in the military, they’re employed on a ship, or they’re overseas on missionary work. Those are just a few of the reasons commonly given by Craigslist scammers for why your only contact can be online chat, email, text messages, and possibly phone calls. Many even avoid the phone, claiming to be deaf, because they’re in Nigeria, Jamaica, or another country and don’t want you to hear the accent.
I love Craigslist because the site is all about local commerce. I know enough not to deal with anyone who’s not in my local area. The red flags should be waving if you can’t meet the person responding to your ad.
2) The person wants you to accept a check, and the check turns out to be for too much money. There are many Craigslist scam variations, but the one I see most often involves a check overpayment. The scammer “accidentally” sends you a check for more than the purchase price of your item. Sometimes the overpayment isn’t accidental; rather, it’s supposedly money for you to give to a shipper. The scammer asks you to wire the extra money via Western Union.
The check might initially clear, but eventually it’s returned as a fake. Once you wire money, it’s long gone, and your bank will come after you for the total of the fake check. I’ve even read horror stories of people who were arrested even though they never knew the check was bad.
3) The person’s emails contain many spelling and grammar errors. Because most Craigslist scammers are based in other countries, safely outside the reach of American law enforcement officials, English is a second language for many of them. They often use scripted emails, sending the same message to multiple potential victims on Craigslist. If a message is riddled with errors or sounds “off” to you, odds are good you’re being targeted by a scammer.
Because of their poor command of English, scammers often ignore questions that you send in response to their emails. Instead, they just continue on with the next email in their scripted series.
If you can’t carry on coherent correspondence with the person, ignore their emails. You’re just being set up to be scammed.
While you can’t always been 100 percent certain that a person is a scammer, the confidence level is pretty high if they fit one, two, or all three of these traits. Watch out for the tell-tale signs that you’re being set up by a foreign con artist to protect yourself and your money.