Is craigslist a Good Idea?

Published in the August 2011 Issue August 2013 Brady L. Kay

I've sold a car, truck, camera, playground and an extremely heavy floor safe through craigslist, just to name a few transactions. On most of those occasions, especially when I listed my busted hot tub for free, the items were gone the same day I posted. I'm amazed at what you can find at on this largely free classified website. And I can tell you from my experiences, it's a great way to sell just about anything.

As for buying, just this summer I found a Ford F-250 Super Duty diesel truck on craigslist that fit both my budget and my need for a good vehicle to tow my boat. I couldn't be happier since I had been searching for months on all kinds of websites looking for the right truck.

But you know that little warning at the top of craigslist about avoiding scams and fraud? It's there for a good reason. For all the success I've experienced, I've seen my share of scams. I wish people had better things to do with their time than to attempt to deceive people, but the truth is some crooks make a good living out of being dishonest.

While searching on craigslist back in January, I came across one of those "too good to be true" situations, but it didn't stop me from contacting the owner. The truck was a good four or five hours away, but as luck would have it, I just happened to have a friend that lived within 30 minutes of where this truck was located.

No phone number was provided, so I communicated with the seller through email. When I asked the owner why he was selling it-assuming it had been wrecked or had some other explanation for the low price-he told me he was about to be deployed to Afghanistan and just needed to sell it quickly.

When I asked for his exact address so my friend could take a look, he said he couldn't leave the base where he was stationed, but that he could just ship me the truck.

Ship the truck? Are you kidding me? Why would I want him to ship it to me when I could just go pick it up? He rambled on about how he could have the truck shipped to me and after I saw it I would have five days to reject the deal or something like that. All he needed was my deposit of course.

Since this was clearly a scam, I searched craigslist for the exact truck outside of my surrounding area and this guy had it posted all over the country. I played around with him for awhile before he got frustrated and stopped emailing me back, but it still ticks me off that scams like this go on as often as they do.

When telling this story I found out about a guy who had a similar experience trying to buy a 2008 pontoon boat. Basically the same type of situation where the seller wanted the money sent to her and then she'd ship it. Then the buyer would have five days to fully inspect it before the funds could be released to the seller. On the craigslist site it warns, "Offers to ship a vehicle are virtually 100 percent fraudulent" and I strongly believe this.

Another tip that I like from craigslist is about being skeptical on stories about divorcees or departing servicemen needing to sell quickly at a low price because these too are generally fraudulent. The guy trying to sell me that non-existing truck seemed to follow the scam warnings perfectly.

I would never want to discourage anyone from taking advantage of this great tool for buying and selling all kinds of products and services because I've had a lot of success with it. But at the same time, I highly encourage those visiting craigslist to first read about avoiding scams before they get started. Simply put, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


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