Craigslist has become one of the prominent online tools to find…well just about anything. From job offers, to used cars, the site is one of the most convenient and comprehensive ways to buy or sell nearly any good or service. The ease of use and lack of expense draws all sorts of people to the site…and cyber criminals, fraudsters, and identity thieves are no exception.
Craigslist’s biggest strength is also its biggest danger. This is because nothing posted on Craigslist is verified by the site operator or any independent watchdog. The result is that you never really know until you know if you’re getting what was advertised.
Be wary of any online forms seeking personal information. If it’s a job offer, have you been offered the job? Have you met the employer in person? Been to their office? Do they have a legitimate presence online? A customer-service department easily reachable by phone?
If you’re unsure, DON’T give out any vital information, such as bank account numbers, Social Security number, or date of birth.
There’s no guarantee the offer is a legitimate one.
Same goes for virtually anything else. Looking to rent an apartment? Have you seen the building and talked to the land lord in person? No legitimate land owner will need your personal information until you’re actually ready to move in. There’s really no need to have that information ahead of time via email. If they insist, there’s a good chance they’re attempting to scam you.
Found that beautiful jet-ski you were looking for with a price that looks too good to be true? It probably is. Don’t buy it online. Request to set up a meeting so you can see the equipment and meet the owner for yourself. If they are hesitant to meet with you, keep right on searching, it’s a scam.
Craigslist can be a useful tool, but it’s important that consumers use it understanding it’s much like the virtual wild west. No law, no protection beyond your own skepticism.
Be especially wary of any prompt to give personally identifying information early on in the process, before meeting the other party in person, or before doing some independent research on the other party or item. A healthy dose of paranoia will allow you to find the good or service you need, without becoming victim of the all-to-common Craigslist scam.