How to spot latest and most common Craigslist scam tricks: Internet Scambusters #409
A new and sneaky Craigslist scam tries to fool victims into downloading a potentially dangerous piece of spyware by inviting them to see if a supposed video matches the product they're selling.
We have the details in this week's issue, which also reviews the most common Craigslist frauds, together with links to the famous online classifieds site's own advice on how to spot and avoid scams.
New Craigslist Scam Uses "Check This Video" Trick
A new Craigslist scam that's appeared in the last few months highlights the need for extra caution when using the renowned online classifieds site.
With an estimated 50 million users in the US alone, and an astronomical 20 billion page views of its online ads per month, it's no surprise that Craigslist has become a popular site for crooks.
While the vast majority of transactions are perfectly honest and trustworthy, the sheer scale of the site-use means that anyone using Craigslist should be extra wary.
In the latest scam, a friend who was moving and selling lots of his stuff on Craigslist got this message in reply to one of his ads:
(Begin message extract -- wording exactly as he received it)
I just want to make sure I am going to buy the same which I am looking for. I can't afford another mistake as i did in the past. Please check the video and confirm it's the same u have
(end of extract)
The message then provided a link and promised that if the item was the same as in the video, the sender would buy it.
But when you follow the link, which, happily, our savvy friend did not, you arrive at a site which then invites you to download a viewer-type program so you can supposedly watch the video.
Now you smell a rat, don't you?
The download is really a piece of malware that, according to Internet security specialists Prevx, hijacks the PC and sends information back to the scammer.
It also takes over your Internet browser, changing the home page to one full of ads and a search box that, when you do a search, takes you to yet another stack of ads.
In fact, it does seem to be just adware, but, theoretically, could be used for any malicious purpose, including information theft.
Trying to return everything to normal and uninstall the program is a messy business. The perpetrator of this scam does provide details of how to do this on its website but we are reluctant to point you towards it.
If you're already a victim, you'll know the name of the host site, so key that in, followed by "/movies/uninstall.html" (without the quotes).
For everyone else: Just don't fall for this scam.
Leave your number
Another recently witnessed sneaky trick involves a would-be buyer visiting a website where they're asked to leave their phone number for a later call back.
Instead, the phone number is used to make premium line calls that are charged to the owner's phone account.
Most other Craigslist scams are not exclusive to the online classifieds market -- many of them are either advance payment or phishing tricks.
With advance payment, or Nigerian scams as they're sometimes called (because many of them originate in the West African country), the crook sends out a forged check or money order for too large a sum to cover an item purchase, home rental, or even tuition fees.
He then asks for the overpayment to be electronically (and untraceably) wired back before the original check bounces and the victim is left owing money to the bank.
This is a subject we've covered many times at Scambusters. You can read more about it in our earlier issues.
A Craigslist scam that involves phishing simply attempts to get your personal details, including credit card numbers, for the purpose of identity theft.
More Craigslist scam tricks
Other Craigslist scams include:
- Bogus house sitters -- they don't so much "sit" as do the cleaning, as in cleaning you out.
- Crooks who advertise stuff they don't own, from expensive goods and stolen property, through empty houses and apartments (advance rent required), to disposing of the entire contents of a house while the owners were on vacation -- as happened in Oregon a couple of years back.
- "Mule" jobs where you get paid to receive checks and goods then forward them to someone else. You may get paid -- but the job almost certainly will be crooked and you could end up in jail. See our special issue on this, How to Avoid Becoming a Money Mule - And Why You Should Care.
Craigslist publishes a helpful page of information about how to spot scammers, the most common types of Craigslist scam tricks, and examples of actual bogus ads and messages.
Their basic message is that, where possible, you should deal with buyers and sellers you can meet in person. Do that, they say, and you'll bypass 99% of all Craigslist fraud attempts.
Be especially cautious of anyone who claims to be overseas or otherwise unable to meet you, or who offers to pay for something sight unseen. An honest person would be highly unlikely to do that.
Additionally, they warn against advertisers who claim the transaction is somehow "guaranteed by Craigslist." The company just doesn't do that type of thing.
Also, never send money wires (e.g., MoneyGram or Western Union) either to pay for something you bought or to reimburse a supposed overpayment.
Beware too of buyers or sellers who propose using an escrow service. These are agencies that hold money pending delivery of an item, thereby supposedly safeguarding the transaction.
There are many genuine escrow companies but if the other person suggests a particular escrow company, chances are he/she has set it up as a phony site, either to steal your money (if you're buying) or to pretend the money has been received, thereby prompting you to ship an item you're selling.
Read more about phony escrow services in Escrow Services Scams and Fake College Degrees.
Two other rules: don't hand over confidential/financial information and don't believe those too-good-to-be-true prices -- they're almost certainly Craigslist scams.
In an interview with PC World magazine, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said: "Overall, people are pretty trustworthy. If you give people an environment where they can trust each other and be fair, for the most part, then people almost always return that trust."
And that's true. Just make sure you know what the dishonorable ones are up to and how to spot a potential Craigslist scam.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!