The Five words that will scare away Craigslist money scammers

Craigslist has become one of the most popular places for people to get cash for their used goods. I’ve had tons of success selling everything from bikes to couches to laptops and projectors… and the secrets I’ve learned to become a power seller are detailed in Craigslist Unlocked.

But no matter how good you are at selling stuff, there is always the risk of running into a buyer who is not as honest as he seems.

You might even be well trained in identifying scam artists and avoiding Craigslist users who want to con you. But even if you have all of these skills, there is always the risk of a buyer handing you counterfeit cash. Continue reading

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Oklahoma woman falls for sob story in Craigslist Rental Scam

12178628211947449361AJ_Buddy_crying.svg.medIt’s always heartbreaking to hear about someone who has suffered tremendous loss or endured extreme hardship through no fault of their own. But when those stories appear in ads on Craigslist, you had better be suspicious.

Oklahoma resident Taylor Richards recently got tricked by such a story when she was looking for a house for rent online. After seeing a nice home of rent on Craigslist, she emailed the woman who put up the ad and received a tear-jerking response. KFOR News reports: Continue reading

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Couple goes missing after meeting with Craigslist car seller — Could this happen to you?

Elrey “Bud” Runion and his wife, June Runion, were looking for a classic car on Craigslist, and they thought they found a great deal on a 1966 Ford Mustang. They left their house to take a 300 mile drive to meet the seller on Thursday, but they never returned. Family members became concerned and called police after several calls to the Runions went unanswered.

According to the Cordele Dispatch Atlanta’s WSB-TV news, local law enforcement has arrested 28-year-old Ronnie “Jay” Towns as their primary suspect.

The Runion family has also created a Facebook page  to help find the missing couple.

“Please let us know where Bud and June are,” pleaded Bruce Allen, the Runions’ Sunday school teacher, in an interview with WSB-TV.  “They’re two of the finest people you’ll ever meet.”

We hope and pray that the Runions are found alive and well… but we should also ask, “How can we avoid falling into a similar situation when looking for a car on Craigslist?” I recently bought a car on Craigslist without any problems, but there is always the risk of running into a seller who has bad intentions.

Follow these tips to stay safe:

1) Avoid any deals that sound too good to be true. If a car is listed for sale on Craigslist at a price that is far below its blue book value, it’s either a lemon or a scam.

2) Always meet in a busy public place to pay for the vehicle. Find a venue that will discourage scammers and thieves from taking advantage of you, like a bank, supermarket, or department store. Make sure you are in the view of nearby security cameras.

3) If the purchase involves large sums of money, don’t bring the cash to the first meeting. Instead, simply use the first meeting to examine the vehicle and take a test drive. That way, you can verify that the car is as advertised and the seller is legitimate.

When you arrange the first meeting, tell the seller that you will not have the money with you, but that you will get the money from a nearby bank and buy the car if you like it. If the seller rejects this proposal, then refuse to do business with him and look elsewhere.

Most Craigslist transactions occur without incident, but while you should expect the best, prepare for the worst.

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Craigslist con artist almost fools seller with fake check scam

FakeMany people are aware of scams on Craigslist where the seller doesn’t hold up his end of the transaction… but the buyer can often be the scammer as well.

South Florida resident Maya Thomas almost became a victim of check fraud when she tried to sell her nephew’s bunk bed online. According to CBS affiliate Wink News, a woman sent her a text message, saying she wanted to buy it and would send her a check in the mail. From the article:

“A few days later, Thomas received the check. In the upper left hand corner, it said ‘Square One,’ which is a company based out of California. Thomas thought that was a bizarre because the ‘buyer’ had a New York area code, and there was another red flag.

“The check was sketchy because it was for $1,800 and the bed was only for $250…she [the buyer] said that was including shipping and the insurance.”

Maya decided to ask the buyer to send a different form of payment, and the buyer never responded.

In this case. Maya caught two red flags:

1) The check’s address was in a different state than the buyer’s area code.

2) The check amount was much higher than her asking price. (This is the strategy behind the check refund scam, which I explain in detail in a previous post.)

However, the red flag that would have helped her avoid this from the beginning was the fact that buyer wanted to pay with a check. Many con artists use the check payment routine because they are confident they can get the buyer won’t realize he check is no good until it’s too late. That’s why you should never take a check as a form  of payment when selling on Craigslist. Deal in cash whenever possible.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling also has some good advice on identifying fake check scams… and for tips on avoiding similar scams involving Paypal and cashier’s checks, check out this report issued by The Security Blogger.

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Craigslist Unlocked – 2nd Edition released on Amazon!

CraigslistUnlockedIt’s been more than 2 years in the making… and now it’s here. The second edition of Craigslist Unlocked  is now available for digital download on!

All of the Craigslist tips, tricks and techniques that helped me become a successful seller are stuffed in this book, including tons of new information that allows you to take advantage of the latest changes to Craigslist. And as always, there are plenty of pointers on how to stay safe when buying and selling online.

Here are a couple of helpful tips from the book:

Page 19 — Searching on Craigslist: Using misspelled words in your searches will yield many ads that are not seen by the average Craigslist user. With less competition for these items, you will have a greater chance of getting a response from the seller and negotiating the price that you really want.

Page 39 — Posting an ad: If you are selling a small product, like a watch or a cell phone, it might help to take a picture of it next to a commonly used coin, like a penny or quarter. This comparison will allow the reader of your ad to visualize the actual size of your product.

Page 49 — In-person negotiation: Never lower the price for your item before the potential buyer has made their offer, even if it appears he or she may lowball you. All that this does is give away your negotiation leverage and allow the buyer to take control of the situation. Let the potential buyer always make the first move.

Feel free to post a review of the book — good, bad or indifferent — on Amazon. I appreciate all feedback.

I will also be updating my Craigslist Unlocked Facebook page on a regular basis with more Craigslist tips to help you save money and make money online.

Happy Hunting!


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Super Bowl cheaters strike again… on Craigslist

You enter the playing field on Sunday morning, looking to score. You see an opportunity to make a big move… but out of nowhere, you’re knocked over just as you’re about to seal the deal. When you finally come to your senses, you realize the that other side wasn’t playing by the rules… and there’s nothing you can do about it.603px-Welker-Brady-Moss

Am I talking about the controversy surrounding the New England Patriots’ deflated footballs? Nope. I’m referring to the latest string of Super Bowl ticket scams on Craigslist that have robbed NFL fans of their hard earned money. These online thieves cause more problems for average Americans than Deflategate.

Patriots die-hard Sean Delaney became the most recent victim after someone offered him two Super Bowl tickets for $2000, according to WCVB News. From the article:

“I was contacting people, emailing them, just waiting for a reply,” Delaney explained. “Someone just called me out of the blue.”

Delaney wired the seller the money through Money Gram and Walmart-to-Walmart.

“This person got me, they got me good,” Delaney said. 

Delaney said he thought the purchase was safe because the seller wouldn’t get the money unless he answered a security question, but the seller picked up the money without the security answers.

Delaney’s mistake was simple – he used a wire transfer to send money to someone he didn’t know. Wire transfers – whether it’s Western Union, Moneygram or Walmart-to-Walmart – cannot be cancelled once they’ve been sent, so there’s no way to get your money back if you get ripped off. Even the security question Delaney set up didn’t protect him from the inevitable result.

Fortunately in this case, the scammer returned Delaney’s money after he threatened to get the police involved. But perhaps if he had read the report I issued two years ago about a similar Super Bowl scam, he would have avoided the headache altogether.

But who knows… with the headache that his favorite team is having right now, he might be better off watching the game on TV at home.

You can also find tons of helpful Craigslist tips in Craigslist Unlocked, now available at

Here are some other resources with helpful advice on avoiding ticket scams:

10 tips to avoid getting scammed by ticket scalpers –

Don’t Get “Fouled” by NCAA Ticket Scams: 4 Tips to protect your self — BBB Wisconsin

12 Ways To Avoid Getting Scammed When Buying Tickets –


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The Top 5 Warning Signs of a Craigslist Job Scam

scam041609aCraigslist is one of the most popular places for local businesses to post job listings. Millions of people have found great career opportunities after browsing through Craigslist ads – and you can count me as one of them.

Unfortunately, a variety of scammers and con artists also use Craigslist to post listings for jobs that don’t really exist, and when job seekers get sucked into these schemes they find their wallets a lot lighter than when they started.

So, how can you identify these fake job ads on Craigslist and avoid becoming another victim? Look for these 5 warning signs:

1) The job details are vague

Ads for legitimate jobs on Craigslist should have information about the job title and duties that you can clearly understand. If you have made contact with the employer and still have trouble explaining the job details to a friend, then it’s probably a multi-level marketing scheme or Ponzi scheme.

2) The employer asks for payment up front

If an employer ever asks you to pay for “processing fees”, “start up costs” or “application fees” during the hiring process, you should know right away that it’s a job scam. This is a tactic often used by pyramid schemes, where your task is to con other job seekers in the exact same way. You should never have to give an employer any money when you start a new job; even background checks, drug tests and credit checks should be covered by the employer.

3) The employer asks for your credit card number

Anyone who claims they’re giving you a great job and then asks for your credit card information is about to rip you off. This type of scam is often presented on websites that sell “home business opportunities” where you can make money with “no start up costs” and “no hidden fees”. Your credit card information is the only thing they really care about, because once they get it, they can run up charges before you even realize what happened… and if you sign an online agreement, your credit card company might not cancel the charges.

4) The employer does not require a resume or application

Craigslist job ads that don’t require you to fill out a resume or application are almost always frauds. The people behind these con schemes want to lure you into their trap as easy as possible, and skipping over the need for a resume or application makes it easy to con victims who are too lazy to submit them — and too lazy to realize they’re being hoodwinked. When you come across a situation like this, as yourself: “If getting this job is so easy, why is it still available?” There’s always a catch.

5) The employer does not conduct an interview before hiring you

Imagine you’ve just responded to a Craigslist job ad by emailing the employer your resume and contact information. Someone claiming to be from the company’s human resources department calls you back, saying that they approved your resume and want you to start work as soon as possible. You might be thinking you got lucky and found a great opportunity — but in reality, you’re probably walking into a scam.

Any job opening that does not require a live interview at some point should immediately raise suspicion — especially on Craigslist, where only local jobs should be posted. How could the employer know you are a good candidate for the job — but more importantly, how do you know the employer is legitimate — without sitting down for an in-person evaluation?

If the people behind the job ad don’t meet with you before hiring you, then it’s likely that they want to remain anonymous. That way, you can’t track them down or identify them to investigators after you realize you’ve been ripped off.

For more job scam warning signs to watch out for, check out the list compiled by

…and if you really need some extra cash until you find that dream job, try out Craigslist Unlocked, which has tons of advice on how you can make money selling your own household goods online.

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