We’ve all done it. Answered an ad on Craigslist that didn’t seem right or even worse, appeared to be too good to be true. I’ve had my fair share of dealing with crooks as a freelance writer and will be the first to admit that there sure are a lot of scammers out there walking the streets among the rest of us.
They’ve found a way to blend in but their ads offer telltale signs that they’re only in it for themselves. If you aren’t careful it’s easy to get sucked into one of these scams. Here is how you can avoid becoming another statistic by trusting someone you don’t know on Craiglist:
- The ad is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. You don’t know how many times I’ve seen ads looking for “WRITTERS (sic).” Despite not falling for these, I have let a few typos slide by only to learn that the writer of the ad is just as careless when it comes to paying as he or she was when it came to posting.
- The same ad is posted in hundreds of different cities. If you go to New York City then to Chicago then to Los Angeles and you see the exact same ad verbatim, consider it a scam. First, Craigslist only allows you to post one ad per city. If the ads you’re seeing are identical word-for-word, the posters are registering numerous accounts in order to get them up on the website. This spells nothing but T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
- The poster directs you to another website to “sign up” or “apply” and asks for personal information including your name, street address, phone number, Paypal address, and credit card information. Although Craigslist vehemently warns users not to fall victim to these types of scams, I still have friends contact me almost daily about a poster requesting personal information, a background check, and payment in advance.
- The ad requests that you send a “custom sample” despite noting that you should send a copy of your resume and portfolio. Ok, this applies to freelancers. If the poster wants to see samples of your work, he or she should be able to make a decision based on your enclosed portfolio. If he or she wants to see what else you’re capable of doing, payment for the “sample” should be discussed. If you’re like me, you wonder what they do with all those unpaid “samples.”
- The ad requires that you deliver the goods or service upfront without a contract or pre-payment. This is the most common type of scam and independent contractors and freelancers are the ones that fall victim to it time and time again. Before submitting a project to the poster, make sure a proper contract is in place. You may also want to request a downpayment via Paypal. This protects both you and the ad’s poster from any type of misunderstanding.
Before you get scammed by another member of Craigslist, pay attention to the tips above. It can save you time, effort, and most importantly, money. If you suspect you have been taken advantage of by someone on the site, contact the proper authorities so they can conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. Have your own tips or a personal experience with a Craigslist scammer? Share them in the comments below.
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About the Author: Charissa Arsaoui is a freelance writer with a love for thrift. She contributes to many different personal finance blogs.