One of the internet's most significant and earliest claims to fame was offering a digital replacement to the "Classifieds" section of the newspaper. While this has led to the rise of plenty of popular websites where users can find everything from jobs to antiques without leaving the house, it's unfortunately led to a twin rise in classified ad scams.
The internet may be the most powerful technological tool man has constructed—above all else, it's become a place to find things, whether that's information, jobs, friends, love, items, or anything in between.
As such, online yard sale websites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace and all-around classifieds site Craigslist account for some of the most heavily trafficked sites today. Craigslist alone boasts more than 50 billion views a month—eBay had more than 187 million registered users as of 2021, and Facebook Marketplace is a viable option for most of the site's more than 1 billion users.
With so many eyeballs—and wallets—in play, it should come as no surprise that these sites are also huge targets for scammers. In fact, in 2021 alone, there were more than 6,200 reports of classified scams responsible for more than $4.5 million in losses.
Generally, these deceptions involve someone posing as a:
Unfortunately, none of these fabulous items, homes, or opportunities actually exist, and you won't find that out until it's too late.
Scammers will often be after your money, but sometimes the schemes can be more insidious, with scammers also mining for personal information they could use to steal your identity.
So whether it comes to a job offer or a hot deal online, the old adage applies more than ever: Let the buyer beware.
The classifieds have always been a catch-all area, and the types of scams involving these types of websites are similarly diverse. Still, there are some types of classified scams that are more widespread than others.
What makes classified ad scams so potent is the combination of the anonymity provided by the internet, the built-in interest of anyone searching through one of these sites, and the relatively regulation-free atmosphere these businesses operate in.
But it's possible to keep an eye out for these scams if you know what to look for. General red flags include:
Unfortunately, on most classified websites, you can be scammed as either a buyer or a seller.
This class of classified scams involves fraudulent posts on yard sale websites or other online stores.
You'll find something that seems too good to be true: A pristine example of what you're looking for at a price you never imagined was possible. But that's because it isn't possible.
Scammers may be selling fake merchandise, broken merchandise, or possibly nothing at all, preferring just to take your money and run. More expensive items like cars, phones, or furniture may be sold online before they're fully paid off, saddling you with the leftover debt. And more elaborate deceptions may direct you to fake escrow accounts, where scammers steal your money and information.
These classified ad scams may be a bit trickier to spot since people don't typically expect a "paying customer" to rip them off.
Yet, even an honest-seeming buyer can be in on the deception, often through the use of fake invoices or tricky payment methods. Favorite devices of these types of scammers include:
Classified sites can be great places to find odd jobs, but many of these postings may also be suspect.
Job offer scams may end with a scammer stealing your money and personal information through a fake application process. But they could also involve scammers pulling you into their deceptions, including pyramid schemes.
Other common scams that get advertised as jobs include:
One of the most popular types of classified scams is the real estate scam.
These involve posts advertising rooms, apartments, and houses for sale or rent. The homes are typically all affordable and beautiful—and not actually available.
Scammers typically pose as landlords or friends of the homeowner and try to "justify" their too-good-to-be-true posting with claims of being out of town or dramatic sob stories. They might steal any information you fill out on a housing application and charge you for everything from that same application to months of advanced rent, possibly all without ever meeting you in person or letting you into the house for a tour.
If you think you've been scammed, there are still some actions you can take.
First, you can—and should:
If you gave away anything other than money—especially personal or financial information—you should immediately:
Depending on the type and severity of the scam, you may even consider contacting your local authorities.
Scammers are sending fake Venmo emails to Facebook Marketplace sellers in an attempt to steal login information and money.
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.
Escrow services are supposed to keep your money safe, but in this Craigslist scam, these escrow sites will do more damage than good.
Keep your money safe by only paying for your new pet once you have the pet in your possession and avoid using Cash App.
Buying a car on OfferUp may be a cheaper option, but it doesn't come without risks.
Don't fall victim to eBay Motors scams. Know the red flags, such as not being able to see the car in person first, a pushy seller, or a strange payment method.
Stay cautious when buying pets from private sellers online—many listings could be fake with scammers attempting to steal your money.
Buying a used car from a private seller can save you money, but it can also make you vulnerable to various scams. Protect yourself and your money from used car scams.
In this Craigslist rental scam, potential renters send money to the scammer before seeing the property only to realize the listing was fake and lose their money.
Getting more money than you've asked for may seem great, but it could actually be part of a scam to steal your money.
Whether it's a counterfeit product, a sketchy seller, or a price too good to be true, eBay scams are widespread, so it's important to know how to protect yourself.
Craigslist scams are more common than we'd like, but there are steps to take to help keep yourself (and others) safe.
Scammers and hackers are everywhere online, but that doesn't mean we need to disconnect. These tips will help you stay safe online.
Avoiding Craigslist scams is sometimes as easy as not clicking on any links or only accepting cash payments, however, scammers are finding new ways to trick and defraud you.
While paper checks are not as common as they used to be, they are still a fairly common form of payment. However, they may not be the safest way of receiving funds.
The CDC is warning eye drops users of a rare bacterial infection from 2 brands of eye drops. The infection is resistant to antibiotics and has resulted in the loss of vision, loss of eyeballs and the death of 3 patients.
Zelle scams have reached a serious volume. New reports suggest that banks are looking at new refund protections for customers in 2023.
Hackers have gained access to 9.8 million customer records from Optus in Australia, exposing personal information such as driver licence, medicare and passport details.
Find out what the overturning of Roe vs. Wade means for abortion rights in your state.
The number of people searching for the term "COVID vaccine 5G" on Google has just hit an all-time high, but there's one way to be sure that there are no microchips.