Each day there are new warnings for consumers about ongoing scams happening to unsuspecting people. Recently, the IRS issued a warning about tax scams due to the pandemic, with emails and phone calls to people claiming they can get them new stimulus checks for a fee. Other recent scams related to the pandemic are those about getting a vaccine quickly – for a fee, of course. They’re all worthless, and are bilking consumers – especially older consumers, out of millions of dollars.
But there’s been an ongoing scam at one of the most popular online selling sites for years —Craigslist. Most people don’t realize it, but it’s quite easy to be scammed via Craigslist by cyber crooks who use the site to steal money from innocent people who are simply looking to buy or sell an item. The key to avoiding being scammed is to know what to look for:
Know Who You’re Dealing With
Before getting into some specific scams, here’s some advice: if you use Craigslist, you have to know who you’re dealing with. Many cybercrooks use phony names and phony email addresses to get you, so the first step is to find out who you’re communicating with. Use Nuwber to find the true identity of the person who is selling to you —just by entering their name, phone number or email address. If it doesn’t match up in Nuwber, run!
Never forget that when cybercrooks are out to scam you, they have many tools at their disposal. For example, “spoofing” is a classic example. A “spoofed email” looks like it came from a particular person, but it really didn’t. You may even recognize the name on the email, because the criminal has been able to hack into your computer. There are many reasons for using spoofed emails, but overall they’re designed to get you to give up personal or financial information that you normally would never divulge.
Another thing you should never divulge is your phone number. Use Google Voice to provide a number that’s different from your own. It’ll work just fine for the purposes of Craigslist, but the scammer won’t have access to your real number.
When it comes to Craigslist, the intent is to get you to send a wire transfer or other form of electronic payment. Spoofed links to a faker Craigslist are quite common. The cybercriminal creates what looks like a link to a Craigslist site, and when you click on it the site looks real as well. It might not be! Be sure there’s an “https” to show that it’s safe and encrypted before continuing on and never, ever give up personal information on any Craigslist website.
Fake Ticket Websites
Since buyers like to purchase tickets on Craigslist, scammers have created fake websites that look identical to the real ones. The problem is, when you enter your credit card info to buy those “tickets,” the scammer has your financial information and can charge up a storm before you realize what’s happening to you. Never click on a link for a ticket selling website—always type in your own address in the URL bar.
Fake Escrow Website
For “peace-of-mind” for buyers who are leery, sellers often offer you the option of using an “escrow website” to complete the transaction. The problem is that the link they give you to that escrow website is just a link to a phony one they’ve created. It looks real, almost identical to the actual website, but it’s not! Once you enter your financial info, they’ve got you.
As with the “fake ticket” websites, never click on any link from a seller’s email to an escrow website. Type it in yourself in the URL bar at the top, so you can be sure you’re on the legitimate site.
Buyer (And Seller) Beware!
If you’re looking to purchase a car or other large ticket item, beware! If the seller doesn’t require a credit check, forget it! Even if it’s the car of your dreams at a price you wouldn’t normally pass up—know that it’s a scam! Buyers aren’t the only victims on Craigslist—sellers are equal opportunity when it comes to a Craigslist scam.
Here’s what happens: a “buyer” connects with the seller and wants to purchase their item. After a price is agreed upon, the buyer sends a cashier’s check or money order to the seller, but it ends up being in excess of the amount that’s been agreed to. An “associate” of the buyer comes to pick up the item. The buyer then contacts the seller, and informs him or her that they’ve overpaid and wants the seller to send back the excess payment via wire transfer. The only problem is that the money order or cashier’s check is phony, and by the time the bank informs the buyer, it’s too late. The money’s already been sent, and the seller has been scammed. To prevent this from happening to you, always stick to your standard payment method—cash or credit card. No exceptions!
Use Common Sense
When it comes to Craigslist, let common sense prevail. Never give out personal information, including phone number, email or physical address. Shop locally as much as possible, so you can see the item in person. Never give out any financial info, like credit card numbers or paying by check. Use cash. If an ad has a lot of typos and misspellings in it, it’s probably a fake. And never click on links embedded in a seller’s email Stay safe and happy shopping!
*Photos by Anete Lusina