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Posting a classified ad on Craigslist is a great way to sell your extra stuff. However, it's also a great way to fall victim to an online scam if you're not careful.
How can you tell when the person replying to your Craigslist ad may be a scammer? Here are five signs that someone might be trying to pull a fast one on you:
Although Craigslist is an international website, the actual buying and selling of items should always be done in person. If someone wants you to ship them the item, sight unseen, there is a good chance you're going to get scammed. This also applies to buying items. If you're making a purchase, make sure to see it in person, especially when those items are $5,900 worth of (non-existent) Super Bowl tickets.
If the buyer's email fails to make any specific reference to the item you're selling but rather refers to "the item" or uses other generic terms, there is a good chance that the reply to your ad is the work of a scammer copying and pasting replies to as many potential victims as possible. Use your best judgment: if it sounds fishy, it probably is!
A common Craigslist scam involves a buyer who claims to have inadvertently overpaid for the item, usually by check, and then asks the seller to refund a portion of the payment. The seller then cashes the check and sends the buyer back his money, only to find out the check was a counterfeit. Sellers should also be wary of accepting cashier's checks and money orders as these are frequently fake.
If the person interested buying your guitar on Craigslist suddenly starts asking for your bank account number, Social Security number or other sensitive info, that should be a red flag that the guitar isn't what they're really interested in. It's also a good idea when selling a computer, cell phone, or other electronic device to double-check that you've deleted any and all personal information from the device. Even vehicles can sometimes store personal information, like Vice President Joe Biden's old Cadillac (which was recently advertised on Craigslist).
Less sophisticated scammers sometimes opt for a simpler alternative: robbery. It's always best to meet a potential Craigslist buyer at a public place, and not your home. Unfortunately, even letting a Craigslist crook into your car can sometimes get you caught up in criminal activity.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.