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Avoid spam and fraudulent activity on classified ad sites!

I remember the first time I encountered spam after posting on Craigslist. I was a sophomore in college and had used Craigslist to advertise my tennis lessons in Bethesda (which is near Washington DC). I remember getting an email from a parent who lived abroad and he wanted to send me a good amount of money for his son’s lessons, who apparently lived in Bethesda. He provided many details regarding the child’s transportation, schedules, and prices. At first my gut felt bad about this, however I immediately responded to the email very excited about the opportunity. After a few email exchanges, I had a feeling this sounded too good to be true and started to sound suspicious. The so-called “father” started asking for a lot of personal and confidential information via email, and he refused to call me to discuss the lessons over the phone. Also, I noticed a lot of typos and broken English in subsequent emails. I checked the internet and family / friends for their thoughts and they all said red flags were raised. I then Googled this email and found that other Craigslist and classifieds users were experiencing this same email. Luckily for me, I stopped all contact and never lost money or got scammed … but it was close! After this experience, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some ways to avoid these scams or what to look for. I recommend checking out these bullets, it could save your wallet!

  • Always go with your instincts And what makes you feel inside If the email immediately sounds strange, too good to be true, and / or raises a red flag, take precautions!
  • Use a search engine like Google, and look for the actual potential fraudulent email. You will be surprised that sometimes people or classified ad users warn others about the scam.
  • Just don’t answer, that is not worth it. There are many legitimate buyers, so work with them.
  • Take a look at Listings that have a lot of typos, missing contact information, no images, and unusually low or high list prices. Posts using all or many of them should raise red flags.
  • Avoid contacting listings that are repeated many times on classified ad sites. They may not be a scam, but they are spam. I noticed this on many larger classified ad sites. Many contain tons of spam and have no way to really control it. Frustrating for people looking for quality listings / products that actually meet their search criteria! Also, this can be frustrating for people who list products but then don’t get visibility due to the high amount of spam.
  • Try them over the phone. If you are concerned about a scammer, see if you can speak to a real person before proceeding with anything else.
  • Deal with the people locally! Check the product / service you see on the list and in person is a much better idea than doing everything by email. By doing this in person, you can verify the quality of the product and allow for a more reliable transaction.
  • Be wary of listings that require online fake transactions, bank transfers or cashier’s checks.
  • Be careful with lists or emails that require financial information, social security, credit card information, bank accounts, personal information or credit card checks.

Hope these tips help you! If you ever want to report scams to authorities, you can do so by reporting them to IC3 or the FTC online.

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