Using Craigslist.org can pay off for web-savvy bargain hunters. But beware: The popular site for online classifieds is also rife with unscrupulous scammers.
Take, for example, the die-hard football fan who fell for a fake Craigslist ad for Super Bowl tickets earlier this year. The scam cost her nearly $6,000 — though she ended up going to the game, thanks to widespread publicity over her predicament.
Most Craigslist scam victims, however, aren’t so lucky. Here are some helpful tips from FindLaw.com to help you navigate Craigslist safely and responsibly:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is the No. 1 rule of Craigslist. Whether you're seeking an item to purchase, hunting for a new job or looking for a place to rent, if it sounds like it's too good of a deal, trust your instincts and avoid the seller.
- Use a separate email account. Open up a free email account for Craigslist as a preventive measure to protect your privacy. Avoid using the email address you rely on for communicating with friends and family, or your work email. And never share details about your finances or other personal information, like where you live or work.
- Always meet in a public place. Remember, you're dealing with strangers. You don't know who they are or what their motives are. To complete your transaction, meet during daylight hours in a public place with a lot of traffic, like a fast-food restaurant or a shopping mall. If it involves the exchange of a very valuable item, bring a friend who can witness the exchange, and always have your cell phone with you.
- Don't carry large amounts of cash. For purchases of $100 or more, it's best to use a cashier's check. If you're the seller, don't accept a personal check (in case of check forgery) and tell the buyer to come prepared with a cashier's check or money order from his or her bank. If you're the buyer, do not offer to go with the seller to an ATM or your bank to withdraw cash.
- Assume you're buying "as is." In other words, you're purchasing the product or service in its current condition without refunds or returns. Because you're not dealing with an established merchant or business, your only recourse to challenge a product or service with which you're not happy is through small claims court. That's why you should be knowledgeable about what you're buying (or selling) and carefully inspect the product or service before exchanging money, or trading a product or service.
To learn more about your legal rights and responsibilities when using Internet sites like Craigslist, check out FindLaw.com's comprehensive section on Online Scams.
-- Michelle Croteau, Director, Marketing Communications
with Andrew Chow, FindLaw Audience Team