My Personal Experience with a Craigslist Scam Attempt

I recently took the plunge and actually posted (and sold), for the first time, several items on Craigslist. As a result of this new experience I soon learned, like any other service on the internet where you are socially connecting to (and actually meeting) other people, the cybercriminal and real-time criminal both can be lurking nearby.

Craigslist

If you are unfamiliar with Craigslist:

Craigslist is a centralized network of online communities, featuring free online classified advertisements – with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, services, community, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums – Wikipedia

I posted “locally” an ad for a camera that I had for sale and indicated that “cash” payment was required. Within 24 hours I received the following email from someone with an email name of “Josephus Kokotu” (female) that was using a Yahoo email address that had a male’s name in it (Stanford).

Email #1: Hey I’m intersted for sure is it still available ?

I immediately became suspicious due most respondents will cut to the chase and provide further details, such as a phone number or email address; PLUS, the female name “Josephus Kokotu” did not set well with me and the fact there was male’s name in the Yahoo email address. Now, I know I may be over diagnosing this, but they spelled the word “interested” incorrectly; however, from my experience scam emails often consist of intentional misspellings.

I decided at this point to see where this was going. I deliberately responded back, using a temporary email account.

Yes Camera is still available…

Are you local?  Please provide number to contact you.

Thank you

Josephus Kokotu responded back:

Email #2: I’m off for the rest of the week so I can meet up pretty much anytime, just let me know what works for you. Cash ok ? By the way, do you have a certificate number from verifycraigslist.com ? If you don’t I’d really prefer you get one before we meet. It’s totally free, only takes a minute, and it proves your not a sex offender or violent felon. As a single woman xmas shopper it helps me feel better about meeting random people off the Internet. Anyways see you soon.

After receiving this response I noticed Josephus wanted me to visit a website to acquire a Craigslist certificate number so that I could prove to Josephus that I was not a criminal. I knew right then and there this was a phlishing scam. Folks, verifycraigslist.com, is not a legitimate site and was down when I last checked. This site, masquerading as being legitimate, is (was) used to steal sensitive information from the unsuspecting public who enter data at the site. Another clue that this was a scam email is that, I already stipulated, “cash only”, yet Josephus is asking me, “Cask OK?”.

Phlishing

I responded back to Josephus and informed her that she has no worry about me being a criminal; that I am retired Law Enforcement.  You know, I never heard back from Josephus.

In the end, most of my experience with Craigslist has been a good experience; however, it is important that you use common sense and do not fall for that false sense of security that the Craigslist service (or any service for that matter) is protecting you. It is not and they will tell you that; however, Craigslist does provide some common sense rules to follow:

  • DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON – follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts on craigslist.
  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service – anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
  • FAKE CASHIER CHECKS & MONEY ORDERS ARE COMMON, and BANKS WILL CASH THEM AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE when the fake is discovered weeks later.
  • CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer “buyer protection” or “seller certification”
  • NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)
  • AVOID DEALS INVOLVING SHIPPING OR ESCROW SERVICES and know that ONLY A SCAMMER WILL “GUARANTEE” YOUR TRANSACTION.

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9 Responses to My Personal Experience with a Craigslist Scam Attempt

  1. techpaul says:

    Rick,
    Your experience was very similar to mine (first time selling, i.e.) and I too received a dangerous response. (for those interested, I wrote about it here, Dangerous People Answer My Ad?) I am convinced there are people doing this kind of thing as their full-time job, and I applaud your for helping to get the word out, and encouraging your readers to exercise caution when online (whether the site is “legit”, or not).

  2. [...] reading – free! * My Personal Experience with a Craigslist Scam Attempt “I recently took the plunge and actually posted (and sold), for the first time, several items [...]

  3. KsTinMan says:

    Thanks Rick.

    My mom recently posted something for sale on Craigslist and she has no experience with it. I sent her a link to this article today so she can avoid such scams. Tech Paul made me aware of your website shortly after I found his. Your advise is greatly appreciated and valued. Thank you for keeping us informed!

  4. g says:

    I buy and sell on Craigslist and you are spot on about being wary. I too do cash only and ALWAYS meet in a public area (gas stations are excellent).

    Be real careful buying electronics. Make sure to check out what you are buying. If that means going to the subjects house, bring a person or two with you. Don’t put yourself in harms way.

    And always be wary. There are so many freaks out there waiting to rip you off.

    My experiences w/Craigslist have been all positive. But I always make the connection on my terms.

  5. Ramblinrick says:

    G,

    Thanks for the additional tips… I especially like the “meet up” at the gas station.

    Most everyone I know has had positive experiences with Craigslist; however, part of making it a positive experience is knowing what to look for.

    Again, appreciate your input and expertise on this.

    Rick

  6. thegeeknme says:

    good post! This doesn’t get talked about much… plenty is said about the physical safety.. but not so much about the ‘phishing’ side of things.

    TIP: One thing I’ve found helpful is that at the bottom of my craiglist post I add a note that says “NOTE: WHEN YOU EMAIL, YOU MUST INCLUDE THE (insert some detail you’ve put in the message, ie. color or mileage) IN YOUR EMAIL SO I KNOW YOU’RE NOT SPAM!!!

    Another option is to include a graphic or picture from Google Images of a number or something and then say that the buyer has to include the number in their email.

    so far so good…

    Happy Craigslisting!

    • Ramblinrick says:

      thegeeknme,

      Thank you for such great tips in protecting oneself on Craigslist. I especially like the Google image of a number then requiring the interested party to insert the number in their email.

      Rick

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