Identified Scam:

Beware of Fake Cashier's Checks in Craigslist Transactions

Beware of buyers on Craigslist who only want to pay for your item with a cashier's check, then overpay you for your items—they're trying to steal money from you.
Updated 23 May 2022
Beware of Fake Cashier's Checks in Craigslist Transactions
Identified Scam:
Key Finding

Scammers send fake cashier's checks and overpay for Craigslist items in the hopes that you will refund the money and send them your item for sale.

Key Risk

You will lose your money and the item you sold them, which can put you out hundreds (even thousands) of dollars. 

Sections on this page
  1. What is the Craigslist Cashier's Check Scam?
  2. Red Flags of This Craigslist Cashier's Check Scam
  3. How to Beat Craigslist Scams Involving Cashier's Checks
  4. Have You Fallen for This Craigslist Cashier's Check Scam?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

Anyone who posts an advertisement selling something on Craigslist is at risk of this fake cashier's check scam. The scammers are not necessarily out to steal the item you're selling; they're more interested in having you send them money.

  • This scam can also happen if you're renting a room. The buyer will be eager to rent your room without seeing it or hire you for a job without asking for qualifications. In the room scenario, they may send you several months' rent upfront and later ask you to return the money or use the extra funds to pay their movers.
  • If the scammer hires you for a job, they may send you extra money and ask you to buy equipment or software from their "trusted provider." In both cases, the cashier's checks will bounce, and you'll be responsible for paying your bank back the funds.

To protect yourself from a Craigslist cashier's check scam, don't accept cashier's checks. The best practice when using the site is only to accept cash and conduct transactions in person, so you're not scammed out of your money. 

What is the Craigslist Cashier's Check Scam?

In this Craigslist cashier's check scam, buyers on Craigslist send more than the agreed-upon amount, only to ask for the extra money back or to use it to pay a third party, such as a shipping company.

Eventually, your bank will notify you that the check is fake and request the money back. Unfortunately, since you've paid the money to the third party, you won't have the original funds and will have to pay the bank back with your own money. Additionally, you will have already given your item for sale to the scammer.

A Buyer on Craigslist Insists on Paying by Cashier's Check

You post an item on Craigslist and get a message from an eager buyer expressing their interest. The statement may be somewhat vague, mentioning an interest in "the item" but not specifically what you're selling. 

The message may also share details alluding to a troubled personal life to gain sympathy. For example, the buyer may say they want to buy the item you're selling because a recently passed family member had the same one. They will attempt to show vulnerability to make you feel like you can trust them and pretend to be a caring and honest person. Additionally, the buyer will insist on paying by cashier's check, even if you refuse and give them other options.

They may also promise a partial payment upfront to gain your trust—don't fall for it.

They Send a Cashier's Check for More Money Than You Asked For 

Once you've agreed to sell the buyer the item, they'll send you a cashier's check for the item, and often priced higher than your asking price. The buyer will often make excuses for only paying with a cashier's check and insist on you depositing the incorrect amount.

The cashier's check may come in the mail, or they may attempt to send you an electronic version of the check. 

Example of What a Scammer Will Say

I'll pay your asking price and willing to add $40 extra. I'm an Army officer but I'm currently out of town so I will have movers come to your location for the pickup. I'll be paying with Cashier Check  and after check clears within 24 hours you will have your full payment. 

Once you've deposited the check, the buyer will ask you to send the excess funds back to them or a third party. They may refer to this person as a "helper" or "associate." For example, if you're selling furniture, they may want you to use the extra money to pay movers. 

They may also ask you to send them back the additional funds and provide you with information to wire them money. In this scenario, they may admit to sending too much and claim it's easier for you to deposit the check and send them back the extra amount.

The Bank Informs You The Cashier's Check Is Fake

You send the item you're selling to the buyer, who is actually a scammer, thinking that the check has cleared. Unfortunately, this will often be a temporary or fake address, so you can't find or trace the scammer once the transaction is complete. 

The funds from a cashier's check can be made available to you in a day or less, but it takes a few days for the bank to verify the check's validity. If the check is fake, it will bounce, and the bank will contact you and ask you to return the funds. You'll be responsible for paying back the money even if you've already sent the money back to the scammer. 

You'll also have already given your item to the scammer, so you're out both your item and your money.

Red Flags of This Craigslist Cashier's Check Scam

People who only want to pay via cashier's check are often scammers, so the best thing to do is accept cash transactions only. 

Some of the most common red flags to be aware of when dealing with cashier's checks on Craigslist are:

  • The buyer is eager to send you money and doesn't ask many questions about the item or room for sale.
  • The buyer only offers payment in the form of a cashier's check, refusing to use any other method.
  • The cashier's check is for an amount higher than the price of the item for sale.
  • The cashier's check provided looks sketchy. You might notice:
    • Misspelled words
    • Low-quality paper
    • Lack of watermarks

Example of Craigslist cashier's check scam
Craigslist scammers will offer to pay via cashier's check only.

If you do receive a cashier's check from a potential buyer, check the bank's name and phone number on the check. Even if it's one you know, Google the bank name and check to ensure the bank's phone number on the check matches what you find on your internet search. Never call the number on the check, as it may be a fraudulent number directed to the scammer.

In some cases, the scammer has done their research and has put the correct phone number on the check, so this isn't a fool-proof way to identify the scam. 

Example of a fake cashier's check
Fake cashier's will be missing bank information and will also have the payee's name handwritten in.

Actual cashier's checks will also have the payee's name printed by the bank, not handwritten. If the check looks legit, make sure you don't send anything to the buyer until the check has cleared. 

If a buyer sends more than the amount you agreed to sell the item for, this is a red flag. Cancel the transaction and offer to send them the check back or mark it void. Overpayment is a sure sign of a Craigslist scam. Don't ever accept cashier's checks for Craigslist transactions, or at least wait for the check to clear before sending any items or sending them money.

Sometimes, the buyer requests wire service payment for the overpaid amount—this is a common scam. They're hoping you'll wire money back to them (via an irreversible method or untraceable money transfer service) before the check clears.

How to Beat Craigslist Scams Involving Cashier's Checks

The simplest way to beat this scam is never to accept a cashier's check from a potential buyer. There are so many other options for money transfers these days, including cash and apps like Venmo, that the buyer should be able and willing to accommodate. 

When selling items, protect yourself from Craigslist scams by:

  • Never accepting a cashier's check
  • Accepting cash only
  • Refusing additional money (returning the cashier's check to them)
  • Holding onto your item for sale until the check clears
  • Going to the bank with the buyer

Refuse The Additional Sum Of Money

If someone sends you a check worth significantly more than your asking price, decline the payment. Ask them to send you the amount you need and nothing more. They may push back and tell you to deposit or cash the check and then send them back the extra money, but you shouldn't do that. If it's not a scam, they should be willing to cancel the cashier's check and not overpay for the item.

Ask For Cash

If you are selling an item on Craigslist, you should try selling to a local buyer as it allows you to meet the person in a safe public space and request cash for the item. Beware of buyers who say they are local but provide excuses for why they can't meet in person or only pay with a cashier's check.

Wait for the Check to Clear

When a check clears, it means your bank has received the funds from the bank on the cashier's check. This process can take a few days, even though the funds will be available within a day. So if you're selling to someone who doesn't live nearby and can't provide cash, don't send or spend the money until your bank verifies the cashier's check has cleared.

You can also let the buyer know you won't be shipping the item until the check clears. If they push you to send them back the money right away, don't do it until you know if the cashier's check is real.

If someone pays you via cashier's check, don't send them the item or refund them any overpayment amount until the bank has cleared the check. To be even safer, don't accept a cashier's check in the first place.

Ask The Buyer To Come To The Bank With You

It's possible to receive a fake cashier's check from someone in person. If you sell to a local, let them know you'd prefer cash ahead of time. If they say they can only provide a check, ask them to accompany you to the bank.

When someone gets an actual cashier's check, the bank will only write out a check for guaranteed money or money that exists in the person's bank account. So if you see someone get a cashier's check from a bank, you can assure it's real.

Cashier's checks are known for being safe, so they've become a popular tactic for scammers on Craigslist and other community market platforms. A bank issues a cashier's check on behalf of the account holder verifying the funds exist in their account. However, in recent years, cashier's checks have been easier to fake, thanks to advancements in printing and other technologies.

Have You Fallen for This Craigslist Cashier's Check Scam?

If you've been scammed out of your money and items, you likely won't ever hear from the buyer (i.e., the scammer) again. They will discontinue all lines of communication with you and seemingly disappear. 

Getting Your Money and Item Back

Unfortunately, if you've already transferred the money to the scammer, you're on the hook to pay back your bank. There isn't a lot that banks can do in this instance; however, it's still worth reporting to your bank in case they offer some protection from scams like this. If you act fast enough before your money transfer is complete, your bank may be able to freeze your account and stop the transaction.

You're also out of luck if you're attempting to get your money or your items back from the scammer, as you won't be able to contact them again.

Notify Craigslist

Next, notify Craigslist of the scam. Provide them with details about your experience and explain why you feel scammed. If you've met the scammer in person, call the local police department.

File a Complaint About the Craigslist Cashier's Check Scam

File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once you report the scam, you'll receive steps to protect yourself and ensure the scammer can't access any personal information.

Reporting fraud won't necessarily get the scammer caught, but providing information to these resources brings attention to the scam and can prevent others from being scammed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to accept a cashier's check on Craigslist?

You can never be 100% sure that a cashier's check you receive from a Craigslist buyer is legit. To be safe from this Craigslist scam, accept cash only. 

How does the Craigslist cashier's check scam work?

In this scam, the scammer will buy your item for sale using a fake cashier's check. They will often also pay you more than the agreed-upon amount. The scammer will count on you sending them the item and refunding the amount they overpaid before the cashier's check is cleared by the bank.  By the time you realize the check was fake, you would have already sent them the money and/or item.

How do I report a Craigslist scam?

If you've fallen for this Craigslist cashier's check scam, you can report it to Craigslist, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will get your money and/or item back, but this will help stop the scammers from stealing from others.

How do I avoid Craigslist scams?

To avoid Craigslist scams either as a buyer or seller, it's important to know the red flags to look out for, such as people who can't meet you in person, or who can't pay in cash. 

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