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.
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.
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?”.
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.