9 Craigslist Scams You Can't Afford to Fall For

Thieves run many different scams on Craigslist, including rental scams and fake event tickets — and you need to watch out for them to keep your money and identity safe.
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Craigslist is a popular website for selling merchandise, looking for jobs, finding apartments, and connecting people in various other ways. But thieves also use the site, perpetrating a number of different scams designed to steal your money or personally identifiable information.

This guide explains some of the most common ways bad actors try to trick you on Craigslist. They include rental scams, fake job listings, a Google Voice scam, and more. We’ll teach you the scam warning signs and recommend the best identity theft protection services to keep your data safe.

In this article
9 Craigslist scams to watch out for
How to boost your cybersecurity on Craigslist
Best identity theft protection for online shopping
How to identify a scammer on Craigslist
What to do if you’ve been scammed on Craigslist
Will Craigslist refund money if scammed?
Craigslist scams FAQs
Bottom line

9 Craigslist scams to watch out for

Since Craigslist can be used for different kinds of transactions between strangers, there are many ways that dishonest actors can misuse the website and try to trick you. Here are nine common scams often perpetrated on Craigslist that you need to watch out for when using the site.

Rental scams

Rental scams involve thieves posting a home or apartment for rent on Craigslist, often with tons of pictures that are copied from legitimate rental postings by the property's true owner. The scammer pretends to be the landlord and requests that anyone who is interested in renting the property pay a reservation fee through an electronic money transfer service.

In 2020, the New Hampshire Attorney General issued a warning that these Craigslist rental scams were on the rise. Unfortunately, since the poster of the fake listing doesn't actually own the property, those who pay the reservation fee just end up losing their money.

Phishing websites

Phishing is one of the most common ways of trying to steal someone's identity. Usually, phishing scams involve a thief creating a fake website or sending a legitimate-looking text or email pretending to be from a real company. Once you provide your details to them, you could fall victim to identity theft.

Phishing scams can be perpetrated on Craigslist when people set up a fake website that looks like Craigslist. They lure victims to use the fake site and provide identifying details while shopping. These details can be sold to other scammers or used to open credit cards in your name.

Employment scams

Employment scams involve fake job listings. Often, the fake job listing offers a competitive salary despite requiring limited experience.

When interested applicants call or email the scammers who posted the fake job, they're asked to provide copies of their state ID or Social Security number. This identifying information is then stolen. Applicants contacting the fake employer may also be asked to pay money for job training or to pay a fee to apply to work.

These fake job ads can result in people losing money or having their identity stolen. The New York State Division of Consumer Protection specifically warned consumers that these types of ads were common. It alerted those seeking employment that the scammers often use the names of well-known businesses to gain more credibility when doing their fake hiring.

Fake or canceled event tickets

Craigslist scammers sometimes list airline or concert tickets on the site. The problem is, the tickets may be fakes, printed by the scammers from their own printer. Or they may be legitimate tickets that were canceled so they’re no longer valid.

The buyer of fake tickets will end up spending money, only to discover when they try to fly or attend the event that the tickets weren't legitimate in the first place.

Customer service impersonation

Scammers sometimes impersonate Craigslist customer service in an attempt to get you to part with your funds. In this scam, you'll get an official looking email from Craigslist customer service claiming that they've confirmed a seller is safe and that they're offering a buyer protection service.

These Craigslist "customer service providers" will then walk you through the purchase, including helping you to send money. Unfortunately, the scammers will then pocket the funds since the customer support email was never real in the first place.

Fake escrow services

Sellers on Craigslist may decide to put a buyer's mind at ease by referring them to an escrow service. Escrow services are third-party services that hold the buyer's money until the item is delivered by a seller. The only problem is, these sellers are typically scammers who refer buyers to a fake escrow service that just looks legitimate.

Buyers of items may send money to these fake services, believing they're being responsible and protecting themselves, only to lose their funds in the end when it turns out the escrow service wasn't legitimate and just pocketed the money.

Google Voice scam

The Google Voice scam typically starts with a scammer contacting you after you've posted a listing on Craigslist. They'll offer to buy what you're selling but say they want to verify you're a real person first. To do so, they'll send you a Google Voice verification code that they request you provide to them.

When you provide this verification code, the scammer can then open a Google Voice account in your name to conceal their identity when ripping off other people.

Cashier’s check scam

Cashier's check scams occur when someone contacts you through Craigslist and offers to pay for an item you're selling with a cashier's check. They'll send this check and request you provide them with the item immediately — but the check will later turn out to be fake so you'll lose the item and not get the money you were promised.

Overpayment schemes

Overpayment scams target Craigslist sellers. You'll be contacted by someone who makes an offer for an item that you’ve listed for sale. They'll then send you more money than the item is worth in a cashier's check or money order, either "by mistake" or they'll claim the additional funds are meant to cover the cost of shipping.

The scam could be designed to convince you to simply send the item, which you won't be paid for ultimately. Or the scammers may ask you to give them back some of the money they allegedly overpaid. In some cases, these scams can also take the form of gift card scams, as you'll be asked to buy a gift card with the extra money sent and provide the scammers with the card number.

Unfortunately, it may be a fake check or cashier’s check, so you'll end up without the item and without the money.

How to boost your cybersecurity on Craigslist

Avoiding Craigslist scams doesn't have to be difficult. When using Craigslist, you should:

  • Try to deal with local buyers only.
  • Never wire funds to anyone on Craigslist.
  • Search for the name and contact details of the person you're dealing with on Google when entering into a Craigslist transaction to look for red flags.
  • Avoid providing personal information to anyone you come into contact with through Craigslist.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
  • Take advantage of the best identity theft protection services to help you keep your identity secure.

Best identity theft protection for online shopping

Many identity theft protection services can help you stay safe while shopping online. Here are three of the best.

  • Aura: Aura offers fast fraud alerts and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance. Plans start at just $9.00/mo (billed annually) for an individual and $25.00/mo (billed annually) for family protection. You also get 24/7 customer support, as well as three-bureau credit monitoring and financial transaction monitoring.

    Get Aura | Read Aura Review

  • LifeLock: LifeLock offers individual and couples plans with standard individual plans starting as low as $8.29/mo for first yr. With the Standard plan, you'll benefit from up to $1,050,000 in identity theft protection coverage, including $25,000 in stolen funds reimbursement, and will get both identity theft and Social Security number alerts.

    Get LifeLock | Read LifeLock Review

  • Identity Guard: Identity Guard offers individual and family protection plans with individual value plans starting at $7.50/mo. There's a 60-day money-back guarantee, $1 million in identity theft insurance, and a U.S.-based customer care team. You'll also get both data breach notifications as well as dark web monitoring.

    Get Identity Guard | Read Identity Guard Review

4.9
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Aura Identity Theft's website
Aura Identity Theft
Up to 68% off Family Annual Plans
  • Excellent identity theft protection service
  • Includes a password manager and VPN
  • Robust tools for children’s security
  • Provides VantageScore and not FICO score updates

How to identify a scammer on Craigslist

When you're using Craigslist, it's important to be on the lookout for red flags suggesting you're dealing with a scammer. Some examples of these red flags include:

  • Non-local buyers contacting you.
  • Anyone making an offer that's too good to be true, like paying more than the posted price for an item for sale.
  • Asking you to provide personal details.
  • Requesting you to wire money.
  • Trying to pay you with a cashier's check or money order.
  • Requesting you provide them with a verification code.
  • Sellers who are unwilling to meet in person.
  • Pictures that don't look original or that don't look like they belong with the ad.
  • Posts with many grammatical or spelling errors.

In general, it's best to be cautious and deal only with people who you can meet face-to-face and who are paying with cash.

What to do if you’ve been scammed on Craigslist

If you have been the victim of a Craigslist scam, you should flag any listings or emails in connection with the scam. You should also flag postings or emails that you think are scams, even if you aren't personally defrauded.

You'll also want to report the scam attempt to a number of different organizations including the following:

You can send the details of the scam to Craigslist and report the incident to your local police department if you met the scammer in person.

If you’re in the Armed Services, you can report the incident to Consumer Sentinel/Military, and local Attorneys General in your area should be notified. For example, you can file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General Consumer Complaints if you're local to that area.

Will Craigslist refund money if scammed?

Craigslist doesn’t provide buyer protections or guarantee transactions. While you should report being scammed to Craigslist, the site won’t refund your money.

If you see any websites or receive messages about Craigslist buyer protection, those websites and messages are likely scams designed to steal your money or personal information.

Craigslist scams FAQs


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How do you tell if someone is scamming you on Craigslist?

There are many ways to tell if someone is scamming you on Craigslist. You should look for red flags like out-of-state-buyers, offers that seem too good to be true, or requests for money or personal details.

If someone isn’t willing to meet in person, if they’re asking for any money or items without providing up-front payment in cash, or if someone asks you to wire money or provides a cashier's check, you’re probably being scammed.


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What can a Craigslist scammer do with my phone number?

Craigslist scammers can use your phone number to run scams. Many dishonest actors will try to set up a Google Voice account in your name by asking you to provide them with a Google Voice verification code. You should avoid doing this and never give out your code to someone you met online.


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How do I verify a buyer on Craigslist?

The best way to verify a buyer on Craigslist is to meet in person and collect cash from the buyer for the item you’re selling. You can’t rely on any Craigslist buyer protections or guarantees as they do not exist. And third-party escrow services are often a scam as well. There's no substitute for interacting directly with the buyer and getting funds in hand.

Bottom line

Craigslist allows you to report scams and warns you against them, but it doesn't guarantee your safety from them. Whether it's a fake job listing or someone sending you a Google Voice code to gain access to your account, fraud on Craigslist has consequences.

Be sure to protect yourself from fraud by being smart about what Craiglist transactions you enter into. You can also look into the best identity theft protection with fraud detection for proactive and reactive protection.

4.9
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Aura Identity Theft's website
Aura Identity Theft
Up to 68% off Family Annual Plans
  • Excellent identity theft protection service
  • Includes a password manager and VPN
  • Robust tools for children’s security
  • Provides VantageScore and not FICO score updates

Author Details
Christy Rakoczy, an identity theft expert with a JD from UCLA’s School of Law, has over a decade of experience writing about cybersecurity issues and laws surrounding identity fraud. Formerly a college instructor, she taught courses focused on legal issues surrounding internet privacy. When it comes to cybersecurity, Christy is deeply interested in promoting responsible practices such as keeping software up-to-date with security patches, selecting proper anti-virus software, and following best practices for passports.