How to Spot Bot-Generated Craigslist Scams

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By George Khoury, Esq. on November 10, 2016 11:07 AM

The internet has the potential to bring people together for all sorts of purposes. Craigslist.org, for example, helps people connect, find jobs, and even buy and sell stuff. Unfortunately, Craigslist is also a haven for scammers and criminals.

Apart from the concern of buying stolen goods, users must be wary of the spammers that have also started to exploit Craigslist in order to perpetrate a host of different types of scams. One of the first things that scammers try to do is route out the most gullible. One way they accomplish this is by creating a massive amount of fake, low quality ads. Frequently the ads are created by bots, or programs that live on the internet and perform tasks that their makers assign. If a person responds to an ad that is clearly bot generated, there is a good chance a scammer will reach out and attempt some sort of swindle.

How Can You Tell If an Ad Is Bot Generated?

Typically, bot-generated ads will look and read suspiciously. While a normal, real ad might have a few spelling or grammar errors, bot errors tend to be somewhat interesting. Oftentimes, bots will use standardized information pulled from the web about a product, but then interject random adjectives. Real ads tend to be short and to the point, while bot ads can be unnecessarily long and include useless and seemingly random information.

Additionally, bot-generated ads will often have odd spacing on the page, or be formatted strangely, or just be simply too good to be true. They are designed to stand out and entice the un-savvy to reply. Frequently, bot-generated ads will have photos that can help you identify whether the ad is legitimate. Tools such as google's image search allow you to search the internet for images. The bots tend to use images that are already on the internet, so if a google image search returns results for the image, you should probably be suspicious.

How to Prevent Being Scammed Through Craigslist Bot Ads

The rule of thumb for Craigslist is to avoid any non person-to-person, face-to-face transactions. Don't exchange money unless you meet in person, and only meet in person in public places where safety can be ensured. Craigslist warns its users not to accept cashier's checks, or money orders, or to agree to wire anyone money, ever.

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