Online scams are thriving on e-commerce platforms as they provide various opportunities for creative and sophisticated fraudsters and cybercriminals. The popular classified advertising site, Craigslist, has not been able to escape their advances either, as it has grown in popularity as one of the largest advertising sites over the past two and a half decades. False product listings, identity thefts, financial frauds, and even common theft have all become frequent Craigslist scams encountered on the platform.
This online noticeboard that sells an incredible range of products, from mobile phones and televisions to furniture and vehicles, has become a popular playground for criminals over the recent years. Therefore, we provide you with our top 7 safety tips to help you protect yourself by effectively identifying and avoiding common Craigslist scams.
Reverse search the ad
Listings that are not genuine often contain images downloaded from other websites or content copied from other online marketplaces. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to detect Craigslist scams is to reverse search the image or the content. You can perform a reverse image search by visiting image.google.com and clicking on the camera icon. This provides you with options to either upload an image or to paste a URL to scan for online pages containing the same image. Similarly, you can copy and paste the ad content to any search engine to unearth duplicate content.
Opt for local sellers
While Craigslist is available in around 70 countries across the world, it simply acts as an online classified advertising medium. Therefore, there’s no guarantee of receiving what has been advertised or even receiving the product at all once you have made the payment.
It is your responsibility to take the necessary steps to ensure that you receive what was paid for, much like when purchasing a product advertised in the classified section of a newspaper. And this is exactly why opting for a locally listed product becomes useful, since it will allow you to inspect the product and carry out the transaction in person.
Ensure a safe meet-up
Once you have agreed to meet the seller, it is critical to prepare for a safe meet-up. Always select a public place such as a shopping mall, coffee shop or a gas station that is convenient for both parties. Remain alert of any sellers who insist on lesser-known locations or after-dark hours to meet.
However, there would be certain items such as furniture, which would require you to visit the seller’s home or a warehouse. In instances such as these, reverse search the address provided by the seller ahead of time. A people search site such as Nuwber could provide you with a convenient and reliable means to verify an address and uncover details related to its owner. And when you are meeting up, ensure that you take a friend along for added safety.
And if you are a seller on Craigslist, avoid arranging to meet interested buyers at your residence or workplace. However, if you have larger items to sell, which requires the buyer to visit your home, keep them in the garage or garden to avoid having to invite them in.
Much like how you purchase everything else, avoid opting for the first listing you see on Craigslist. Choose to shop around instead and compare prices, product details, warranties, terms and conditions and other details among similar product adverts. This will allow you to identify any unusual or suspicious details and avoid Craigslist scams and other fraudulent activities. It could help you to determine the necessary information to request from the seller and also to negotiate more effectively so that you can receive a reasonable price for the product.
On the other hand, remain cautious of any listings that may seem too good to be true. If the prices are significantly lower than the market prices, consider why and how the buyer is able to offer below-market rates. Incredibly low or unrealistic price tags could often signal a scam.
Insist on cash payments
Unlike some of the other online marketplaces, Craigslist does not provide buyer protection or money-back guarantees. This is because it is primarily a classified advertising site that is similar to your typical newspaper. Therefore, avoid entertaining requests for wire transfers, money orders or PayPal payments and always insist on paying in cash to ensure that you receive the item in return. This is another important reason for selecting a local supplier.
Similarly, sellers should also opt only for payments in cash and avoid sharing bank account details. Identity theft, fake check scams, and the like have become common Craigslist scams in recent years.
Avoid sharing personal details
Whether you are a buyer or a seller, refrain from sharing personal information such as your home address, bank account details or social security number. Always bear in mind that you are dealing with a total stranger and, therefore, it’s not possible to predict their exact intentions. Guard against becoming a victim of identity theft and only exchange information once you have met them in person and feel assured of their credibility.
Similarly, avoid sharing your name, contact number or email address when advertising your products as a seller. Craigslist, in fact, encourages sellers to use their system-generated anonymous email addresses to avoid sharing personal details. These could direct any responses from interested buyers to your personal email address, allowing you to safeguard your privacy. Keeping a separate phone number or a burner phone is another wise option to prevent disclosing your personal contact details.
Guard against employment scams
Employment-related fraud is one of the most popular Craigslist scams growing rapidly in numbers. Avoid pursuing any type of employment offer that requires you to make a payment or deposit. Remain cautious of offers that are made without an interview. And especially guard against disclosing personal information for credit checks or background screenings before meeting with the employer.
Craigslist is, no doubt, a great online resource to fuel trade and commerce by providing a convenient platform for buyers and sellers to meet. So, follow these steps to protect yourself and ensure a safe and efficient purchasing and selling experience.