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Craigslist Paypal Prepayment Scam and How It Works

craigslist paypal scam

It looks like the scammers are hitting this particular scam hot and heavy these days, so I thought I should write to tell you about it. Last week, my mother called me because she has a car listed for sale on Craigslist and someone contacted her wanting to pay for it via PayPal. She knows that I investigate scams regularly, and wanted to know if this was a safe thing to do.

"It's a scam. Don't do it." I told her.

Only a few days after that phone call, my father-n-law called me for the same advice! He has a motorcycle for sale on Craigslist and he was getting people asking him to accept payment via PayPal too! Once again, my expertise was called upon and of course I told him, "It's a scam! Accept cash only!"

As it happens, I have a minivan that we've been trying to sell. I decided to list it on Craigslist to see if I can get any correspondence from these scammers to share with you. I posted my ad at 8:46 a.m. on Thursday morning. I'll keep you updated.

Let me tell you how this scam works. First, an unsuspecting person lists something for sale on Craigslist. This item might be a car, a boat, a motorcycle, a Sea-Doo, whatever. It doesn't really matter. Now, there are scammers all over the world who are ready to try to steal your money. One or more of them might contact you telling you how much they are interested in your item for sale. Unfortunately, they are unable to come get it RIGHT NOW, but if you would be so kind as so hold the item for them, they'll shoot you a payment via PayPal right this second.

Now, there are several ways that this scam could work:

First, they might try to send you a link to a spoof PayPal website. They are hoping that you will click the link, and enter your sign in information on that page. If you do, now they have your information, and they can clean out your bank account in mere minutes.

They might actually pay you real money from a previously hacked account, and collect your items. Then, the real PayPal account owner discovers the theft, PayPal takes the money back, and you are left with no item and no money.

This could even be a new spin on the old, "I'll pay you extra money, and you wire some of it back to me via Western Union." Next you find out that the transfer never goes through (or they reverse the payment) and you're out hundreds of dollars.

They might even use a combination of these techniques. They may actually obtain your item, or simply steal your money.

My point is this, never, ever accept payment via PayPal for an item you listed on Craigslist. Scammers use this site very, very often. It's an easy place to find high priced items for sale, and there are so many people who use it, they're sure to find someone who isn't aware of the dangers. My advise is to accept cash only, and meet in a public place for the exchange.

Really, when you get down to it, this scam doesn't happen only on Craigslist. I have very long hair, and I actually listed it for sale on a website for such. I received at least 15 emails from people who were obviously scammers, and the website did warn you about these people. I also regularly use a popular website that's solely for buying and selling homeschool curriculum. They also have a warning on their website, reminding people how to stay safe from scammers.

These people are EVERYWHERE, unfortunately, and you really cannot be too careful. <<< Go back to

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