What the Tech? How to Avoid Scams When You Sell on Craigslist

You hear about scams all the time but it’s still fairly rare to see one show up in your email inbox or by text. Trying to sell something online through Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace will certainly increase the risk.

A couple of weeks ago I posted to both Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace a video camera and accessories I’d like to sell. Within a few hours, I started getting responses. It’s kind of a rush really, thinking something you no longer need or want may bring in some fast cash. It’s kind of a rush for scammers too.

A couple of hours after posting the ad to Craigslist I got a text message (yes, I listed my phone number in the ad as most people do). The potential buyer asked if it was still available. When I said it was the scammer began a flurry of text messages with instructions. Their messages were filled with grammatical errors which is the first sign you might be dealing with someone other than a real buyer.

“I am interested to buy it”, without naming the item I listed. “I just went to say you”, they continued before sending another text message that read “please don’t mind can I send a code to see if are you real??”

Scam!

It’s one of the oldest scams in the scammer playbook. It works like this: They send a Google verification code and ask that you send it to them to “prove you are real.” The code is a real Google verification code to set up a new Google Voice number.

The number will be tied to your Google account and personal cellphone number. The scammer will get the code to verify the
account setup and then can use the newly created Google Voice phone number to scam other people.

While this scam doesn’t appear to be out for your money your Google account could be affected if the number is reported to be involved in scams.

Another Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace scam showed up in my email later that day. In this scam, someone calling themselves “Mary”, sent an email saying they’re interested in the item (again, not naming it) and telling me they are currently out of town but they really want the item badly. They offer to send me a cashier’s check with an extra dollar amount to “hold it” for them. They then ask you for personal information such as name, address, phone number, and the amount of the item.

Craigslist warns against this tactic and says it’s “always a scam”.

It works like this:

Once the scammer has your information they will send a cashier’s check for you to take to the bank. The check is fake. The total amount of the check is higher than what you’re asking for the item. Once the fake check is cashed they might ask you to wire them some of the money back.

But once the check is determined to be fake, the bank will come calling for you to pay back the money. The scammer might even arrange for someone to pick up the item and you’ll be left paying the bank all the money you received and lose the item to whoever picks it up. Other scammers might ask you to cash the (fake check) and give the money to the person picking up the item.

I ended up deleting both messages and successfully sold the item to a real person who paid cash in person at a public place.

Craigslist tells users to only take cash and only sell items to someone you meet in person.

That’s good advice for things you may sell on Facebook Marketplace. Look at their profile to see if you have any friends in common. Make sure they live close to you and always meet somewhere safe.

Facebook suggests people only accept payment for things in Marketplace by PayPal, Facebook Checkout, or in cash.

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