How to Report a Craigslist Scam

What to do if you've been targeted by a Craigslist scammer

If you or someone you know has been targeted by a scammer on Craigslist, there are a few different ways to handle it. While there's no guarantee the scammer will be caught and any lost money or items will be returned, it's worth doing whatever you can to hopefully prevent it from happening again to someone else.

What Does Reporting a Scam on Craigslist Do?

When you flag a Craigslist scam on Craigslist itself, it notifies the moderators so that they can decide whether it needs to be removed. When you submit a report for a scam from Craigslist to the authorities, they can decide if or how to proceed with an investigation.

Internet scammers, including those that target victims on Craigslist, are unfortunately very difficult to uncover and prosecute for two big reasons:

  • Scammers carry out their scams anonymously. They use fake names, fake accounts, stolen information (like credit card information), and more to ensure no trace of their real identity is tied to their scamming business.
  • U.S. law enforcement can only do so much when it comes to catching scammers who operate internationally. Most scammers are overseas, and even if the authorities could trace an IP address to a location somewhere in the world, a general lack of resources to go after them combined with the complexities of international law make it extremely difficult to identify, catch and prosecute them.

How Do I Report a Scam on Craigslist?

There are several different ways you can report a scam you came across on Craigslist, whether you catch it before you've fallen victim or after you've become a victim.

According to Craigslist's About Scams page, you can recognize scammers before you fall victim to them by checking for the following characteristics:

  • They're doing business in your local area, but are not from or currently in your local area.
  • Their introduction seems extremely vague, almost as if they're using a script they could use on anyone (i.e., referring to your sale item as "the item" instead of what it actually is).
  • Their emails and/or texts contain spelling and grammatical errors.
  • They insist on making a payment via wire transfer, cashier's check, money order, Western Union, escrow service, PayPal or anything else that isn't cash.
  • They make up an excuse or have an elaborate story for why they can meet up in person.
  • They ask you for your personal information.
  • They want to verify your identity by sending a pin to your mobile device.

Flag Listings Directly on Craigslist or via Email Reply

If you're communicating with a Craigslist user and suspect they're a scammer, you can flag their listing directly on Craigslist or their email reply from the email message you receive.

To flag a listing, select the flag icon at the top of the page.

A screenshot of Craigslist.org.

To flag an email reply, scroll to the bottom of the email and select the link beneath the text that reads, "Please flag unwanted messages (spam, scam, other):." The link should start with "http://craigslist.org" followed by a long string of characters.

A screenshot of Gmail.com.

If you want to provide more details to Craigslist about a scam, you may want to contact Craigslist directly to tell your story and explain your reasoning as to why the scammer's account should be suspended.

Notify the FTC Via Its Complaint Assistant

You can use the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's complaint assistant tool to notify the agency about a scam, which helps them detect trends and patterns of fraud.

A screenshot of FTCComplaintAssistant.gov.

Simply select a category from the vertical menu, select an appropriate subcategory, answer a few questions about your experience and then provide any additional details in your own words.

Report the Scam on econsumer.gov

An initiative of the International Consumer Protection and and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), econsumer.gov is partnered with over 35 international consumer protection agencies. By filing a report with econsumer.gov, you can help the organization spot scam trends and put a halt to it.

A screenshot of econsumer.gov.

To file a report, select a complaint subject from the main page followed by a subcategory. You'll then be asked what your complaint is related to and you'll be taken through the steps of providing your complaint details, company details, additional information and comments.

Report the Scam to the Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a report form you can fill out, which will help the organization investigate and warn others about the scam. You'll be asked to provide information about the scammer, about the scam itself (including a text field where you can type out the details), about the victim and about yourself.

A screenshot of BBB.org.

File a Complaint With the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

You can submit an internet crime complaint to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a victim or on behalf of a victim.

A screenshot of IC3.gov.

Select the red File a Complaint to start. You're required to include:

  • The victim's name, address, phone number and email address;
  • Any financial transaction information involved in the scam;
  • The subject's name, address, phone number, email address, website and IP address;
  • The details of the scam;
  • Any email headers contained in email responses; and
  • Any other details you think are relevant.

How Do the Craigslist Scammers Find Victims?

Anyone with a Craigslist account can become a victim of a scam, but typically, scammers target Craigslist sellers who've listed expensive/valuable items for sale. All they have to do browse through the listings and pick one that looks enticing enough.

This doesn't mean that sellers who've listed cheaper items won't be targeted. The same applies to Craigslist users who post non-sale listings (rental properties, jobs, gigs, etc) and free item listings.

How Do I Avoid Getting Involved in a Craigslist Scam Going Forward?

If you do business on Craigslist, you can never fully protect yourself 100% from getting involved in a scam, but if you make sure to take the following precautions, you will greatly reduce your risk.

When communicating with other Craigslist user, make sure you:

  • Always insist on meeting up in person before offering/accepting any payment.
  • Always pay/accept payment in cash;
  • Avoid any transactions that involve shipping or moving;
  • Avoid any transactions that involve a third-party;
  • Never give out any personal information to anyone you're communicating with on Craigslist;
  • Always use the anonymous email address Craigslist provides to communicate with other Craigslist users;
  • Never agree to verify your identity to a Craigslist user with a pin sent to your mobile device;
  • Never agree to put a deposit down on an item to secure it immediately before having seen it in person;
  • Never agree to a background check or credit check before meeting a potential landlord or employer in person; and
  • Immediately delete voicemails and block phone numbers claiming to come from Craigslist.