Identified Scam:

Craigslist PayPal Scam: Signs of This Scam To Watch Out For

If a buyer on Craigslist insists on only using PayPal to transfer money to you, be careful not to click on any links that they send you or you receive via email from PayPal.


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Updated 8 February 2021
Craigslist PayPal Scam: Signs of This Scam To Watch Out For
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Key Finding

Scammers send Craigslist users fake PayPal links to "help" them access or set up an account. The link leads you to a fake PayPal website.


Key Risk

The scammer could steal your PayPal username and password, your linked bank account or credit card information, and ultimately, your money.

Sections on this page
  1. How the Craigslist PayPal Scam Works
  2. How to Beat and Avoid this Craigslist PayPal Scam
  3. Examples of the Craigslist PayPal Scam
  4. Have You Fallen For This Scam?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

If you are selling something on Craigslist, you could be a target of this Craigslist PayPal scam. Specifically, if you accept PayPal as a form of payment, this is where the scammer gets you. Anytime you use Craigslist to buy or sell items, it's important to look out for red flags of scams and to always proceed with caution.

How the Craigslist PayPal Scam Works

A buyer (the scammer) sends you a fake link to either set up or access your PayPal account so they can transfer money to you. This fake link is designed to collect your personal information and gain access to your PayPal account. Here's how this scam works.

1. You Receive a Link to Create a PayPal Account Or to Verify Payment

First, the scammer will send you an email or text message asking to buy your item. They’ll tell you that they would like to pay with PayPal and ask if you have an account. If you say no, they’ll reply that it’s very easy to sign up and send you a link to do it. This communication will sound reassuring and helpful, but it’s a scam.

If you say yes, you will receive a payment confirmation email that looks like it’s from PayPal that requires you to authorize the transaction by clicking on a link.

Example Fake PayPal Email

You have a new incoming payment transfer on hold. For security reasons, We need to verify the sender and receiver of the payment. 

A quick verification of your PayPal account is required to approve the incoming payment transfer. Your money will be added into your account within 2-4 business days.

2. You Are Sent to a Fake “PayPal” Login Page

The link from the scammer or in the email will look real, but it isn’t. It is a fake page set up by the scammer designed to look like PayPal to trick you. Even if it seems real to you, do not trust any link sent by a potential buyer. Do not enter any information on this page.

3. The Scammer Steals Your Information and Money

If you click the fake link and enter the requested information, such as your full name, address, bank account details, credit card information, or PayPal login credentials, the Craigslist PayPal scam is successful—the scammer has all of the personal information you entered. They can use this information to gain access to your bank, credit card, and PayPal account or steal your identity.

How to Beat and Avoid this Craigslist PayPal Scam

Luckily, you can beat Craigslist and PayPal scams as long as you stay cautious.

If the buyer ever sends you a link to sign up for PayPal, do not click the link. If you decide to use PayPal for payment, open a new browser window instead and type https://www.paypal.com. That is the real PayPal website, and you can safely sign up there if you need to.

To beat this scam:

  • Do not click the “PayPal” link that the buyer sends you or you receive via email.
  • If you click the link, do not enter any information there—close the browser window.
  • Visit https://www.paypal.com to sign up or log in if you need to.
  • When in doubt, sell items in person only and for cash.

If you think you've been scammed and believe your accounts and information have been compromised, it's important to act quickly to keep your money and identity safe.

How to Identify a Craigslist PayPal Scam

Scammers are usually good at making themselves seem legitimate, but there are some signs that you might be talking with a scammer trying to pull off this Craigslist PayPal scam on you. You may be able to identify the scam during your initial conversations with the buyer. Red flags include:

  • Bad spelling or grammar
  • Asking questions about “the item” instead of naming the item specifically
  • Only wanting to pay via PayPal
  • Claiming that they are out of town or use another excuse not to meet you face-to-face to buy the item

If a Craigslist buyer is adamant that they can only pay you via PayPal, be wary. Only accepting one form of payment, which isn't cash, is a huge red flag for Craigslist transactions.

The scammer’s goal is to convince you to sign up for a new PayPal account using the link they provide so they can steal your information (i.e., phishing). If you do click the link, you haven’t fallen for the scam quite yet. Some tell-tale signs of this scam can also be found on the fake page and email itself:

  • Check the sender’s email address. If it’s not from an @paypal.com address, it’s a scam.
  • Look at the URL. Fake PayPal websites will not have the official PayPal URL (https://www.paypal.com/) as the primary domain.
  • Look for bad spelling or grammar.
  • Make sure the PayPal logo is legit.

Also, note that when someone sends you payment via PayPal, you will receive a notification email from PayPal, but you won’t be required to authorize the incoming transfer, as the email states. If you receive an email like this, it’s likely a scam.

The scammer will probably act very quickly once they have your personal information. It’s essential to pay close attention to all communication with potential buyers and only log in to trusted websites with the real URL to complete transactions. If you fall for this scam, take action as soon as you realize it because your money and identity can be compromised almost immediately.

Safety Tip

PayPal has Seller Protection, but it does not apply to items picked up in person. If you’re selling an item to someone locally who will pick it up in person, it’s best not to use PayPal for payment.

Who Do Scammers Target?

Unfortunately, any Craigslist user can become a victim of this PayPal scam. The scammers are very good at reassuring Craigslist users and providing convincing stories to make you trust them. Both Craigslist and PayPal are aware of these Craigslist buyer scams. Still, the most important thing to remember is to double-check everything and don’t communicate with anyone who seems suspicious or untrustworthy.

Craigslist PayPal scams, in particular, target people selling items on Craigslist that will accept PayPal as a form of payment.

Examples of the Craigslist PayPal Scam

The first thing to look for when receiving an email from PayPal is the sender's email address. Some scammers try to trick you by changing the name attached to their email to something like "[email protected]" or "PayPal Customer Service" but they won't be able to change their email address to a legitimate PayPal one.

Example of fake PayPal email
Emails from PayPal will always come from an @paypal.com email address. Pay special attention to the sender's email address to spot a fake.

If you view the PayPal email in a web browser or click on the link provided, check the URL and make sure it's a real PayPal.com address. If you're ever in doubt, type "paypal.com" directly into your web browser and log in to your account that way.

Fake PayPal email

Fake PayPal login page
Although the fake PayPal login screen looks real, the URL gives it away that it's a fake.

Have You Fallen For This Scam?

If you fall for this Craigslist PayPal scam, you're not alone. You can do some things to protect your accounts and money, but you must act quickly.

1. Change Your PayPal Password Immediately

If you already have a PayPal account, log in to https://www.paypal.com immediately and change your password as soon as you think you might be a victim of a scam. This will keep the scammers from gaining access to your PayPal account and, subsequently, your money.

2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication on Your PayPal Account

For added safety, set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on your PayPal account if it’s not already activated. 2FA is an extra layer of security that will make it harder for scammers to access your personal information. It means that each time you log in to PayPal, you will have to enter an additional code sent to your phone and your password.

To set up 2FA on your PayPal account, follow these steps:

  • Log in to https://www.paypal.com using your existing username and password.
  • Click or tap on “Settings”—it may look like a “gear” symbol—then click or tap on “Security” in the main navigation near the top of the page.
  •  Click or tap “Set Up” on the “2-step verification” option.
  • If you want your code to come through a text message, select “Text me a code” and then click or tap “Set it up.”
  • Add or verify the correct phone number so that you will receive the text messages.
  • Click or tap “Next” to confirm that you are the real owner of your PayPal account by confirming the code texted to your smartphone.
  • Click or tap “Done” to complete the process.

Now you will receive a text message with a new code every time you log in to your PayPal account. Because only you have your phone, a scammer will not be able to log in to your PayPal account without the code, even if he or she has your PayPal username and password.

3. Report the Scam to PayPal

Report any problems directly to PayPal. It’s important to let them know of any scams right away so they can help protect your information. They will likely ask you to change your password if you haven’t already done this.

4. Report the Craigslist PayPal Scam to Your Bank

Call or email your bank right away and let them know that you've fallen victim to the Craigslist PayPal scam. Forward any emails from the scammer without making any changes. If you act quickly enough, the bank may credit any money taken by the scammers back to your account. This, of course, depends on your bank or financial institution’s protection policy.

5. Report the Scam to Craigslist

Craigslist scams can be reported directly to Craigslist by using their online contact form. You can also flag the original post if it's still published by clicking on the flag at the top of the post.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the PayPal Craigslist scam work?

In this scam, you are sent a link to PayPal, which may look real, but will actually take you to a fake website designed to steal your personal information. If you enter your information on the fake PayPal website, the scammer will have your PayPal login information and access to your bank account and money. 

How do I avoid PayPal scams on Craigslist?

The easiest way to avoid PayPal scams on Craigslist is not to accept PayPal as payment. The best way to avoid any scam on Craigslist is to accept cash only and complete the transaction in person.

Are there other PayPal scams I should be aware of?

Several PayPal scams are making the rounds, both on and off Craigslist. Many attempt to steal your personal information (phishing scams), while others are related to shipping, overpayment, and fake charities.

How do I report a scam on Craigslist?

You can report the Craiglist scam online, but this won't guarantee you'll get any money back that you've lost. Reporting the scam to Craigslist may, however, help others from the scam.

Is it safe to use PayPal when buying or selling items on Craigslist?

While PayPal does offer some protection for customers, it won't protect you from most of the Craigslist PayPal scams that are rampant right now. When completing Craigslist transactions, it's recommended to use cash.

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