Craigslist logoAbout Craigslist is the leading Internet classified ad site, largely because of its simple interface, low to no-cost advertising, and its network of local sites providing niche exposure and community organizing/advertising opportunities. It is widely regarded as a kind of “Wild West” environment, one with mostly fair dealers and good opportunities, but also with the kinds of issues that open, unregulated spaces tend to develop.

How Does It Work?

The company prides itself on having one of the most transparent and accessible ad processes available. Whether you represent yourself as an individual or a company, there is an online form to fill out with categories, ad text, and pictures. Once everything is uploaded, a confirmation email is sent, and email correspondence between parties is kept anonymous through Craisglist’s system until such time as the parties exchange information privately.

Since there is no online checkout, order processing, or escrow, and there is very little company oversight beyond policing the posts that are reported to the company as scams, there are holes in the system that allow for individuals to use a Craigslist scam to take advantage of customers by using known bank and mail fraud tactics.

Cost/Price Plans

Craigslist has instituted small fees for certain category listings in certain cities by companies, but by and large their individual classifieds and personals are fee-free. The few areas they do monetize usually include high-dollar and high-turnover products like automobiles and real estate/rentals. Most users will never encounter a fee for service.

Refund Policy

Since Craigslist does not handle the transactions it facilitates, consumers using the platform have no recourse for returns or refunds if they do encounter a scam. Using a third party payment platform with extensive fraud protection protects against this risk, as does dealing locally with face-to-face transactions, although that option does present other risks that need to be carefully navigated.

Customer Service Contact Info

The company maintains an extensive help tree for directing your email queries, available on the Contact page at, but it does not widely advertise phone-based customer service. Some Craigslist scam operators have established false customer service numbers and emails as a phishing operation, so the site’s Contact page is the recommended route for inquiries.


Depending on the reviewer, Craigslist is widely regarded as both everything that is great about the Internet and also everything that is scary about it. Since its inception, stories about sex trafficking, fraud, and even more extreme assaults, carjackings, and kidnappings have made sensationalistic headlines. In reality, individual Craigslist sites vary quite a bit, and the company itself works hard to detect and prevent fraud.

Over the years, this has involved publicly recommending against tactics mail fraudsters use, such as receiving cashiers’ checks for large orders, phone processing of credit card orders, and other behaviors that would allow a scam operator to gain control of financial or personal information, or property. Such efforts have been largely successful, but Craigslist scam operators continue to innovate around them.

Common Complaints

  • Failing to do more to prevent fraud
  • Lack of transparency when it comes to what can be done to avoid scams on its site

Editor’s Opinion

If you are looking to do business on Craigslist, there are a lot of features to recommend it. This is especially true for local real estate and automotive sales, and for those looking for a bargain on local used goods. It is not recommended as an ecommerce platform, though, and attempting to use it as one will likely leave a consumer open to the kinds of fraud highlighted here.

Final Verdict: Craigslist isn’t a scam, but you can get scammed on it. Be smart and you’ll be fine.