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Craigslist First Impressions: Lots of Scammers

Written by Nickel - 18 Comments

This past weekend I listed a couple of things for sale on craigslist — a refrigerator and a couch. Never having bought or sold anything on craigslist, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. But so far I’ve been pleased. The signup process is quick and easy, and creating an ad is totally straightforward — just choose your locale, create and account, and start creating/posting ads. The biggest upside of craiglist is that it’s free, meaning that you can clear out your stuff and keep all the cash for yourself. That being said, we still haven’t sold the items in question — one of our ads in particular has generated some interest, but nobody seems too serious at this point. And since we’re not running newspaper ads in parallel, it’s really hard to tell how well craigslist stacks up against traditional classified ads.

Perhaps the biggest surprise thus far has been the number of scammers that seem to be targeting craigslist sellers. I’m not sure why I didn’t anticipate this, as a relatively unregulated online commerce site seems like a perfect venue for mischief-making. Anyway, it seems that soon after your ad goes live, you’ll wind up with a couple of robot-generated spam messages making inquiries about the item(s) that you are selling, and asking about shipping to far off places. As with most spam, the grammar and spelling in these messages is usually suspect, so the warning signs are pretty obvious. But still, it’s something to be on the lookout for…

In short, the scammer will tell you that he/she is inquiring on behalf of a friend/relative/whatever who wants to buy your item and have it shipped to them. The scam here is that the buyer will end up ‘accidentally’ overpaying. But since you’re so trustworthy, they’ll just ask you to wire the difference back to them. Being the generous guys that they are, they may even offer to let you keep part of the excess for your trouble. But guess what? Sometime down the road (after you’ve forked over the cash for the overage) your bank will call notifying you that the certified/cashier’s check that you received was a fake.

The most recent come on that I received was from a guy in Florida who was interested in buying our couch for his sister-in-law in Belgium (yeah, right). He offered to pay by certified check, and said that he would dispatch a shipping company (NAHANCO SHIPPING AGENCY — apparently listing it in all caps is supposed to make it more believable) to fetch the couch. That’s as far as it got, because I kicked his query straight to the trash. Needless to say, you should probably focus on local cash transactions.

Anyway, we’re still holding out hope that our stuff will sell. If not, we’ll have to re-think our asking prices — since we’re not paying for an ad, we can actually afford to price things a bit lower than we might have otherwise…

With that said, I’d love to hear about your craigslist experiences. Any major successes? What about horror stories?

Published on August 10th, 2006
Modified on December 9th, 2007 - 18 Comments
Filed under: Online

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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18 Responses to “Craigslist First Impressions: Lots of Scammers”

  1. 1
    EdK Says:

    The same scams are going around on eBay now, too. We tried to sell some items recently and were innundated with these messages. We even had a scammer complete an auction through the Buy-it-Now process, only to then email the overpay-and-refund scam.

  2. 2
    Kim Says:

    I’ve had pretty good experience with CraigsList. We have sold a few things on there with no issues. Like you said, it’s free so if something doesn’t sell you can always relist for a lower price! I had to do this once and it sold right away at the lower price. I will definitely be using them again in the future. Since I tend to sell smaller things though, I haven’t run in to any scams.

  3. 3
    Dave Mann Says:

    I have bought and sold all kinds of stuff on CraigsList. Sold a used car on the first day for the asking price. Tons of misc computer parts. I even found a new employee for my company. I’m in the process of turning all my attic junk into cash.

    Scamming is a problem though. Usually at the bottom of my CraigsList postings I put a “WILL NOT SHIP. MUST PICK UP ITEM. CASH ONLY.” type of disclaimer. Then I know people didn’t read the ad when they’re asking me to ship to Nigeria or Belgium or wherever.

    I turned my mom into a believer, too.

    She’s more wary than I am about money stuff so a once-over of the Cashiers Check thing and she’ll be good to go.

    – Dave

  4. 4
    Katie Says:

    I have bought and sold a lot of things on Craigslist and never received any scamming type emails. A feature of Craigslist I really like is the “free” section – i have given away stuff that isn’t in good enough condition to sell (sometimes even broken) and there are always people who want it (I guess for parts?).

    Also, I always get moving boxes for free from Craigslist, and then give them away for free once I’ve unpacked. Less cardboard in the landfill!

  5. 5
    Carl Guild Says:

    I have used craiglist for advertising housing for sale and rentals. It actually works quite well, but I have been hit by scammers as well. It was easily picked out from the rest because of spelling issues and an immediate deposit for them to move from England? To a small podunk town in Connecticut? I doubt it. Anyways Craigslist is great at what it does which is to give you free exposure for whatever it is your selling or giving away. Also if you like to give away things and recieve things for free – check out the Yahoo! group “freecycle”

  6. 6
    Becki Says:

    I’ve bought and sold on the site, and had great luck, it’s like a flea market but you can stay home till you find what you want or need.

  7. 7
    Kate Says:

    Craig’s List rocks! I’ve seen the scam things, but they’re so obvious, I don’t remotely consider it a problem. Great “flea market” type of exchange for locals….

  8. 8
    RJ Says:

    Definately agree with Dave, you need a “WILL NOT SHIP. MUST PICK UP ITEM. CASH ONLY” type message. It won’t limit the spam that you get, but it helps to identify people who actually read the message before they email you.

    Also, depending on your area, you are hitting a smaller demographic then other forms of advertising. I found that if you aren’t rushed for time it’s best just to keep reposting your ad. If you never get any responses it is probably priced to high. Lower it slightly, and repost!

  9. 9
    Michele Cali Says:

    Boy that sister in Belgium must need to fill her house as this same scammer is trying to get me to sell my dining room furniture. He is even using the same storyline and shipping agency. I have heard good things about craigslist and from those that have had successes. As always…if it sounds too good to be true…it probably is!

  10. 10
    Lyle Says:

    I searched to see if this was a scammer and found this post…Check out this clip from an email on my craigslist posting…
    Am jerry willy from brooksville,FLORIDA.Am interested in buying your top gas for my sister inlaw in beligium…Can i have the last price of the item,including the present condition of it up to date…..My method of payment is going to be by a reputable certified check .About the shippment of the item this is going to be done after the paymnet is comfirmed by NAHANCO SHIPPING AGENCY..who is going to be at your door for the pick.you can concact the shipping compeny via this email address and phone….(nan_nacoshippingcompany@mail.com).So can i have the name that will be on the check and the address to issue it out to..plus your contact number.

  11. 11
    Meg Says:

    Ya I have just been approached by Geremy in Brooksville, FL and he wants to ship a $300 fridge to Belgium! Thought right a way something was wrong…Be careful out there….will still use craigslist though. THanks for this post.

  12. 12
    Currie Says:

    I just listed some stuff at craigslist last weekend and then got what I thought was an awesome response only to gradually have figured out that this person going by “mary davis” is just scamming me. I thought her grammar was questionable and spelling, too, but naive one here just thought, “how great to have sold it!!” but no check (from which I am to send back the excess – HAH!!)has yet to arrive. I hear such great things about craigslist but so far I don’t know if it will work for me. Am glad I caught on to this BEFORE I really got scammed. Any suggestions of what to do if indeed I do receive a check??

  13. 13
    Davy Says:

    I’m From Brooksville fl. and this guy probably isn’t from here. we have been overrun with idiots lately. Find out who he is and i’ll go beat him up for you.

  14. 14
    Jack Says:

    I am currently expirencing a fraud right now who is trying to do this exact same thing to me. Good think I came across this. I will tell him/her to go to hell and get a real job. So much for my hopes of someone over buying.

  15. 15
    Ankur Says:

    Hi, I ran across a couple of scammers on craigslist, sending me the following messages:

    1)Sharon Smith
    Hello Dear,
    My Name is Sharon Smith, I read your description and I am highly impressed and interested in your Electronic. Please I’ll like to have the Breakdown Details, the total Selling and Shipping cost of the Item you advert on Craigslist as well as the picture of the Electronic if you have any that you can send to me as I’ll not be able to come to your place and check it out. Please do get back to me so that i can make arrangement for payment prior before i send a Shipping Company to pick it up for me.
    If you are interested in selling it out to me,…get back to me with this information below:….
    Full Name:………….
    Full Address:………
    Phone Number:……
    As i will be paying you with US Postal Money Order Or A Certified Cashier’s Checks that will be easy for you to cash in your Area
    Regards.
    Mrs Smith.

    2)Derek Williams
    Thanks for the reply…ok
    However am well pleased and satisfied wiht the condition of the item..
    And besides,i had a shipping company who will definitely come for the pick up of the item at your door step…ok
    Perhaps ,am doing this so as not to give you stress or pains in shipping the item..ok
    After you might have receive the check and cash it i your bank,the shipper will definitely come fo te pick up immediately..
    .i will notify you immediately the check is been sent and provide you the tracking number thru ups for verification
    So therefore kindly get back to me with your name,phone# and address where you want the payment to be addressed to.

  16. 16
    Sarah Sunshine Says:

    I’ve listed several items here in Phoenix, but sold only one. I DID, nowever, reply to a job posting for a tutor, with a legitimate tutoring service. I emailed my resume in the morning, interviewed that evening at a local coffee house, and started tutoring my first client the next afternoon! I’m still working for that service, happily.

  17. 17
    airlessgel Says:

    Craigslist has gotten so bad with the scamming!! In the past I’ve sold a few items and rented my apt through it. I recently posted a car radio and I must have gotten 5 or 6 emails from scammers, same thing, the shipping, the checks, the company that will pick it up. I wonder if there is a way for Craigslist to get rid of the scammers , It makes you not want to post ever again!

  18. 18
    Jon B Says:

    ebay and craigslist are great ways of getting items cheaper, the whole trick is NO MONEY ORDERS. paypal and meet in person is the way to go. if ur a female dont meet in person tho, not safe. with paypal one phonecall to tech support n ur money goes right back into your account.

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