In my experience there are far better ways to make money online than using Craigslist, as that’s because the inventory you’re selling tends not to scale very well. However, one thing is undeniable – you get hyper-local access to thousands of people in each city for free! Whether you want to earn 6 figures, or a couple hundred bucks, using the right strategies and targeting the right people will help you get there with Craigslist selling.
And, hey. The tactics you learn trying to make a living on Craigslist will only benefit you in other business endeavors, online or otherwise!
With the money some companies spend marketing their business on Google Adwords & Facebook, hoping to reach a local audience of potential buyers, Craigslist is the crazy site out of left-field that “allows” you to do this for free.
Craigslist wasn’t designed as a marketplace where retailers and wholesalers could sell their goods. Amazon, eBay and other platforms were created for that reason, but not Craigslist. The mission from the beginning was to create the worlds biggest classifieds ads website. Basically, anything you would find in a newspaper -such as houses, vehicles, sporting equipment, personals, and jobs are there. And over the last 25 years+ Craigslist has gone on to be THE biggest classifieds ads site in the world. There’s no debating that. Many startups have met their demise trying to take on Craigslist, and while some have succeeded in siphoning off traffic from certain verticals (think: AirBnB for vacation rentals, or Zillow for housing) the reality is this – private sellers love Craigslist and millions of people use it each day.
Can you really make money selling stuff on Craigslist? Absolutely!
While I said that I personally believe there are better ways to make money, that all depends on what you’re doing or more specifically “want to do”. If you want to build and sell jungle gyms and play structures for children, chances are Craigslist is a great market for you. (Note: I’ve personally seen someone do this exact thing successfully.) Same with reselling almost anything, though we’ll get to that. As it stands there are people out there that exclusively make a legit living off of selling products on Craigslist. There are also countless others that make millions scamming people. It became a marketplace of all kinds whether Craig Newmark (the founder) intended for it to be or not, with the best and the worst of the people taking part.
So, without further ado I’ll show you a few ways you can make legit money on Craigslist and at the end I’ll throw in some super shady scams people are using. Please don’t be an idiot and start scamming people, I just feel that it’s rather myopic to write an article titled “How To Make Money On Craigslist” and neglect to mention the millions of dollars that are being made by shady people/companies.
- How To Buy On Craigslist
- How To Automate Finding Products On Craigslist
- How To Sell Products On Craigslist
- How To Sell Services On Craigslist
- Craigslist Scams
WarningI will not be covering "flipping cars" for one very big reason, it's actually not legal to sell an unregistered vehicle in any state without a dealers license! While it's true that you're not likely to get caught, and you can sell a small number of registered vehicles privately, it's not the type of business that scales without a license. States such as California don't even allow you to privately sell one flipped car (non-private, unregistered vehicle) without a license, so beware of your state laws if you choose to go this route.
Distressed Sellers: In my opinion the only scalable way of finding maximum profit potential with your chosen product is this – distressed sellers. This section right here should be stickied to the top of this page and the front of your brain, possibly even as a tattoo because it applies to absolutely everything with a price, whether you’re dealing on Craigslist or not. When it comes to maximizing potential profit on a flip there isn’t a better legit way to do so than buying from a distressed seller aka “The Have To Sell(er)”.
I’m not going to dive deep here because you could quite literally write an entire book on identifying and negotiating with distressed sellers, however I will say this. If you’re not studying new ways to identify these people, getting there/responding first, using proper negotiating tactics and have the ability to give them cash immediately; flipping anything is probably not in your future. Craigslist is not a new playground, there are established flippers out there, no different than you see with real estate, that have their shit together and ready to make a deal at a seconds notice. If you want to be competitive enough to make a living, not just a few extra dollars, then you need to mimic the professional flippers approach.
The distressed seller is ideal for 3 great reasons.
- They have to sell immediately.
- They have to entertain offers.
- They need money fast.
Seriously, can you put together a better potential person to buy a product from? They have to sell, which means they can’t keep it. They have to entertain offers because they have to sell and if they don’t get full-ask it won’t sell and they almost always need money right away, yesterday in fact.
There’s no rule that says every seller needs money fast, or has to sell immediately, however I firmly believe that if you’re not finding sellers with these 3 qualities than you’re not likely to find the right deal. You, as a buyer, need the best deal possible to maximize profit on resell, and if there’s no rush on their part to sell, a firm price they won’t budge from and they claim they can wait for months to unload the product – you’re probably not going to make a deal!
With that being said, let’s cover some ways to stay on top of potential listings with a distressed seller.
How To Buy On Craigslist
Specialize In One Area: You’d think this goes without saying, but much like retailers, some try to be all things to all people. That works for grocery stores, but it doesn’t work so well when you have to hunt for deals. The absolute best way to maximize your earnings is to have a core focus. This means that if you sell Apple computers, gear your entire business around that product. Know it inside-and-out and you will be prepared not only for the selling, but the deal-making, which is the lifeblood of your Craigslist business.
You don’t have to specialize in the first product you try, and it certainly doesn’t have to always be a niche like “toys” or “games”, but you should stick to the general theme or you end up with a fragmented business like a pawn shop. There’s nothing wrong with being a pawn shop, just know that you’re going to spend more time learning than doing in the beginning and that could really stunt your growth.
If you like repairing furniture, feel free to repair and resell all types, or specialize in mid-century modern, whatever works, but I’d suggest sticking with furniture and not branching out into kitchen appliances unless you’re attempting to scale into a bigger business such as interior design or staging.
Determine A Price: Price is the bottom-line on both the selling and buying-side of the equation and there’s no right or wrong answer. You’re very likely not going to be in the wholesale game, here, and you’ll be dealing with used products. Whether buying or selling, this is where the margin is. There’s a reason the most profitable non-service portion of a car dealers business is in the used car market. Used products almost always depreciate to a certain point, and if you’ve managed to find a buyer that fits the “distressed seller” model, you’re going to find a nice built-in margin.
Determining a price, whether buying or selling, seems to be part art and part science, but there’s another component – circumstantial. This component is the one that you really want to focus on, as all buyers/sellers are not created equal, and some products are rarer than others and so on. It’s your job to be able to determine the best entry points for a buy based on the circumstances, and the best selling point for a sale.
Negotiate: For some of you without a sales background this can be the most dreaded part of the entire process. Unfortunately, you have to get over that. The only thing separating you from buying a product at the right price is your ability to negotiate. Remember, absolutely everything for sale is negotiable, but there are certain scenarios where some things are more negotiable than others. There are so many variables that I can’t just give one example, or set of rules to cover them.
Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I’m going to direct you to a few books that I feel everyone should own. Books that cover negotiating & general-to-advanced sales tactics in great detail. I wouldn’t recommend junk, these books are a “must read”, whether you borrow them, buy them online or go into library or a bookstore, they will serve you well by reading them, absorbing the tactics and utilizing them in the real world.
Having the ability to sell and negotiate is absolutely key in business, and life and I couldn’t recommend these books more.
Note, you must have ad-blocker disabled in order to see the above product image. For those that do have ad-blocker enabled, here are the direct links to the 4 books I highly recommend.
- Secrets Of A Master Closer
- Crucial Conversations When The Stakes Are High
- Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
- Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
Now, let’s put all of this into action!
As an example, let’s use musical instruments. I’ll go with guitars because I know them well enough, though, I’m sure there will be plenty of people that come across this article that have in-depth experience selling pre-war guitars and would like to correct me on exact value, repair costs & what to look for – it’s close enough.
The Ad: A woman is attempting to sell her late husbands acoustic guitar, a 1938 Martin D-28 for $30,000. You know this is a grail guitar if you’ve ever seen one, the demand for this particular model of pre-war Martin can top 6 figures depending on condition. If this product got to a market like eBay, it’s over for you – you have to move now.
In her ad you can see that she has taken many pictures of the guitar; top, sides, back, neck, headstock and even inside the sound hole. She claims to “not know much” about the guitar, but knows that it’s worth a lot of money as her husband bragged about being able to start a college fund for the kids if he ever sold it – it “was his baby!”.
What do you know at this point?
1.) We know that this guitar can be extremely valuable, up to $100k, depending on condition and history.
2.) We know that the original owner is not living, and that seller is looking for money.
3.) We know there’s going to be a lot of competition for this guitar and we have to act fast.
4.) We know she’s priced this at close-to-market for a guitar that needs a little bit of work.
5.) She knows exactly which model this is.
What don’t we know at this point?
1.) How much work, if any, this guitar needs.
2.) How much information the seller has on the history of this guitar.
3.) How knowledgable the seller is about this guitar.
Now, we should always assume the sellers are intelligent unless finding out otherwise. It takes 5 minutes of research to find a market price for a specific product, and a guitar like this has some eye-popping price tags with one simple Google search. The biggest clue on seller knowledge, outside of price, is listing the exact year/make/model of the guitar in the title. In my professional opinion, this lady knows exactly what she has, she’s done the research and has a “firm” price. If she would have listed it as “Martin Guitar” or “Old Martin Guitar”, I would be seeing dollar signs faster than Scrooge McDuck, but she didn’t. She listed the exact year/make/model of the guitar and that exact same information is all you need to set a price.
I would also assume she’s spoken with dealers about this particular guitar since it’s a logical step when looking to sell a product you’re unfamiliar with. If I was to sell a Steinway piano, I’d be reaching out to stores that sell and service Steinway pianos, in addition to checking eBay and doing as much research as possible.
So, what’s the verdict? Well, we don’t really know until we meet her and visually inspect the guitar, but it’s still worth a shot. If it needs no repairs and doesn’t have any signs of major abuse or poor work in the past, it’s a $65,000 guitar. We also know that all prices are negotiable to a certain point and she meets the criteria of a distressed seller. Chances are that we can’t lowball her, but this is where specializing in one area can build in big profit. We’re going to have to see the guitar, and gauge the seller in person before we can definitively say anything.
Let’s give her a call!
After we call her we find out that this guitar has been in the family its whole life (very, very good news) and was passed down from his father – the original owner. She doesn’t know if it’s had any major work and said that it hasn’t been played much in the last 20 years. She also mentions that she’s looking to move to a warmer climate and would like to liquidate the majority of her possessions to pull this off.
So far, we love this. We know that barring some crazy shit this guitar is worth $65k. We also know that she’s a distressed seller for sure, but she also has a good idea of the value of the guitar.
What do we do?
In my opinion, this is simple. We arrange to meet up at my bank where I will get her a cashiers check for the agreed upon amount if the guitar checks out.
Why my bank?
- It’s where my money is.
- It’s safe, lots of cameras.
- I don’t have to carry cash.
- It’s not a guitar store where she could get a bunch of ravers drooling over it and change her mind!
Most people would think to meet at a music store, or at the lady’s house to check it out. That’s asking for trouble. The music store, as I provided in number 4 example above, would absolutely blow the sale. Without a doubt. You bring that little piece of gold in there and you may as well wave to it on the way out because her price has changed. A little under-handed you say? Well…do you want to make a profit or watch another sale go by?
What if we meet at her house? What if you just got robbed for $30k? What if you didn’t get robbed there but some shady dudes followed you home? I mean, it’s Craigslist, people. If you treat every purchase like a 1940’s house call you’re going to lose more than money eventually! Always meet in a designated safe place, in fact, every local sheriff’s office allows you to conduct business in their parking lot for this reason. Don’t be stupid.
Let’s assume, though, that the guitar checks out. We don’t have to go into the details here, it just checks out like she says. What do we do?
If it was me in this situation, I’m gauging the price instantly. I want to know if she’ll come off it. I know she wants to sell and even better, I know she wants to move. I would definitely let her know I’m interested, but throw out a line like “This is a lot of money” and I would not let on that I’m a full-time buyer, it’s not of any concern to anyone but me. I’m spending 5 figures either way.
Now, this leads a bit into advanced negotiation tactics so I won’t get too far astray, but I don’t want to talk about the guitar anymore. I want to talk to her about moving, maybe even her husband. Something personal, something relatable and something that’s going to get her to open up. If you keep it strictly business you’re going to miss out on a lot of profit and there’s nothing wrong with being nice.
Let’s say we get to talking and I find out that she wants to move to Phoenix, AZ. Awesome, I used to live there, now we have something in common, and I can talk about that. Or maybe I knew someone that lived there, whatever, you get my point. I’m now getting her focus off of the guitar and onto her desire – moving and moving on.
Without going through this line by line, I get to the point where I turn the conversation back to the guitar and ask her what her bottom line is. In my experience, when you casually ask someone what their bottom line is, they’ll tell you – honestly. Let’s pretend she says she “really wants $30,000”. I have a number of options, I can certainly play hardball, or the life savings card, or some bullshit sob story, but let’s be real. There’s a 100%+ margin in this guitar, a mid 5-figure profit and I’m helping her out. Oh, and most importantly, if I don’t seal this I know her phone is ringing off the hook and it will be gone in a minute!
End result: I’ve determined she has the leverage in blocking a sale and taking another offer at full-ask, or creating a bidding war (I’ve seen it before!), so I hand her a cashiers check for $30,000 and walk away with $35,000 in potential profit.
This is not every Craigslist deal, in fact, this is very rare deal, but the key takeaway from this is that you have to know your product, act fast, negotiate well and get the deal done. Sometimes the best negotiation still means you pay full ask. As long as you’ve determined that’s the best possible result, it’s perfectly fine to act. This goes beyond Craigslist, this is life as a buyer. If you’re reselling anything, every deal should look like this in some form or another. Sometimes you win with lowballs, sometimes you pay full price, and sometimes you walk away. No matter how it ends, it needs to benefit you!
How To Automate Finding Products
You didn’t think the pro’s did it manually did you?! Nope, the best in the business, people that depend on flipping for a living are using software to help them find the best listings instantly. Now, before you think you need to go out and buy software, you don’t, it’s more like a collection of free services than a standalone product.
What you’re looking to accomplish, in a nutshell, is…
- Find ads that meet your product criteria as soon as they are posted.
That last part is very important. It’s easy to find ads that meet your criteria, the real problem is finding them quickly. Forget the ads you’ve found that are no longer listed, that might be a bummer but it doesn’t waste your time. What does is finding out a product is gone within an hour or two and waiting 2 – 3 hours for an email response, or calling, just to find out the product is gone!
Now, we just need a simple way to find these products quickly, notify us and then we can decide if we want to pursue it.
Here’s how to do that
Craigslist has 2 things that really help you out here.
- The ability to save searches.
- An RSS feed
Without going into mind-numbing detail, you have to do a search to find a product, right? Now, if you save that search in your craigslist account you can simply revisit it any time, run the search and the newest results pop up. Awesome! Saves you a ton of time, but it isn’t really automated is it?
This is where the RSS feed comes in. By itself, it’s also not automated, it’s just a list of words (code) on a page. However, when you combine a piece of software that’s designed to fetch that RSS feed every 5 minutes and update you, now it’s automated!
There is however, a tiny problem. Craigslist isn’t a fan of 3rd party tools using their shit. They don’t like to make other businesses rich off their backs, so often, they disable access to 3rd party RSS feed readers (Feedly is a great example) and suddenly you as a buyer are left in the dark!
Right now there’s a Chrome plugin that is working – it’s called CraigsHunter and you can download it directly to your Chrome browser. Remember, though, you need to actually be using the Chrome browser!
If you’ve got Chrome, or just downloaded it, great. Download the CraigsHunter app and get started.
Once you’ve downloaded the Chrome plugin, you’ll see a little green peace sign in the right corner, click on that. For those that are visual I’ve included an image.
You’ll notice there are some handy little instructions as well! Awesome.
Step 1.) Click “New Search”.
Step 2.) Add Craigslist URL….what?
Yeah, I have a feeling a lot of people might get lost here. So let’s do this together.
To get a URL, we’re going to need to perform a search on Craigslist using all of the filters that we normally do, copy that URL, then paste it in this “Add URL” area. Still confusing? I’ll show you.
In this image, I clicked on “furniture“.
Now I want to create a search.
On the left hand sidebar I’ve selected…
“By Owner”, because I don’t want to deal with dealers.
“Has Image”, because, I like images and if you don’t, I don’t trust you.
“Bundle Duplicates”, because, I don’t want to see your ad 10 times.
and then I set my max price at $500.
Now it’s time to get to the keywords so I can really filter this!
Here’s what I typed.
This is good enough for me. I like to use “quotes” because it means that they used those exact words.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve looked through hundreds of ads you’ll start seeing familiar terms, such as “divorce” , “have to sell” , “make an offer” , “pay bills” & “need money”, .etc. Smart buyers are going to create searches with those keywords in them! Now, that doesn’t mean every awesome deal will contain them, but why not search for it?
Ok, now we have a search. Let’s run it! Oh wait, I should mention, I’ve also sorted by “date”. It’s not a huge deal because the RSS feed will have the new ones added automatically, but still, I like it.
Here’s what that looks like in the URL bar.
Copy that and open the plugin up again (click the green peace sign > new search).
It will look like this when you paste it in the box…
Then when you hit “Save Search” it will look this…
Now, one last setting.
You need to click on the link that says “Settings” at the bottom right and it will take you to this page.
Simply choose the settings you would like. It goes all the way up to 5 minutes, so if you want a notification every 5 minutes – select that. If you want pop-ups, keep that selected as well. Then hit “Save Settings” and you’re done!
Well, at least for that one search.
Ultimately you’re going to want to add a bunch of searches, searches that you know are going to find the best ads. While that takes some knowledge and experience to figure out which search filters work best, the hard part of being notified is taken care of.
Now, it’s time to sell, but instead of covering just products, I’m going to use this section to talk about selling anything, because there’s more than one way to make money on Craigslist!
Selling Products On Craigslist
This is going to be a little different than the buying section and not just because it’s about selling, it’s because some people already have products they want to sell, or they buy products from somewhere else and want to sell on Craigslist.
In addition, for those that are looking to make a little extra money and not turn this into a side-business, this will be a helpful primer on how to sell products on Craigslist the right way.
Selling Services On Craigslist
This section isn’t necessarily going to be a long one because it’s as straight-forward as it sounds. If you have a skill/trade, there are sections on Craigslist that will allow you to offer your services.
The best part is that listing your ad is free and there are a lot of people looking for help. So think about something that you can offer and put your ad out there on a daily-basis.
The list goes on and on, and you can see from the list image that the types of services can be quite broad. If you’ve got a service, I can guarantee you, there’s a buyer out there. Instead of going over some boiler-plate strategies, let’s just dive in to what some people are doing and see what we can learn from that.
I made the mistake of going straight to “financial” in this one to find an example, and while I did find one, this sub-thread is absolutely littered with SPAM and Scams of all types. However, I did find a great example of a woman offering her accounting services and I want to showcase it so you have a better idea of what a successful ad might look like.
Let’s look at the ad…
Title: accountant w/ 30 Yrs Exp – Seeking New Clients/Businesses!
She did a great job with a descriptive title, but if it was me I would make sure to capitalize the first letter of each word. Adding “30 yrs exp” is brilliant, and no doubt works. Remember, the title is literally the only thing separating you from getting a click to view the ad or the user scrolling to another. You have to make an impact!
Bio: My name is Linda and I am located in the East Bay. I have 30+ years of experience and I’m good at what I do. I work remotely through LogMeIn and Remote Desktop. This allows me to service any area and also be available to my clients 24/7.
We quickly know her name, where she’s located and how much experience she has. She also goes on to explain how she’s available 24/7 to her clients and can work remotely through software. Alright, cool, that sounds easy and hassle-free.
My services include but are not limited to:
+ Full and Accurate Profit and Loss & Balance Sheet – CPA Ready
+ Adjusting and General Journal Entries
+ All Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable – Including collections
+ Payroll and payroll tax payments
+ All quarterly and end of the year payroll reports
+ Sales tax
+ All end of year filings
+ Set up new companies or new chart of accounts
+ Cash/Bank Reconciliation. Monitored and reconciled daily.
+ Quickbooks, Excel and all other Accounting software
I really, really like this. It’s a comprehensive list of skills she has and services she’s willing to offer. We know she has 30 years experience, she’s technically-savvy (remote logins) and clearly knows her stuff. Now, I just have to see if what she offers fits what I need. Thankfully, she’s got this handy little list to look at.
Closing Line: I offer daily phone, email and office support to my clients. I’m always ready to answer any questions and I am quick to act when issues arise.
My hours are not fixed. Whether you’re an individual who only needs a few hours of work completed per week or a business who needs routine maintenance on a daily or monthly basis – I am completely flexible!
Please feel free to contact me about rates and required services. References available upon request.
I look forward to talking with you 🙂
She’s clearly a pro at selling her services on Craigslist. Look at this.
- She tells you how available she is and on what platforms (phone, email + office).
- She will take work of any size with no minimum guaranteed hours. (Very flexible!)
- She’s willing to offer references.
- She ends it with a smiley face to show she’s a cheery, happy person looking forward to talking about YOUR tax needs.
In my opinion, she did this absolutely the right way. If I could make one change it would be a picture, but that’s not necessary. I feel this is a great example of how you pitch your services online and if you follow the general theme of her ad you’ll be well ahead of other people that post.
Well, this is the part I wasn’t really looking forward to writing but I have to, for your protection. As a regular buyer or seller you’re going to encounter a scam more often than you care to and it’s best to be able to spot these ahead of time and save yourself money, product and a complete headache.
- The Fake Money Order: I need to preface this by saying cashiers checks can be faked as well! Take my advice, please, don’t ever, ever accept either unless you are physically at the bank with the buyer. By the time you find out the money order or cashiers check is fraudulent you’ve lost your product, and you may owe the bank any money that you’ve spent! It’s a worldwide problem and you wouldn’t be the first person to fall for it, so make a mental note, absolutely no money orders or cashiers checks!
- Counterfeit Money: There’s a $9 solution to this problem, right here and it’s called a dual counterfeit detector and what you get is 2 counterfeit-detecting pens you can use to mark a bill and check for the proper color, (dark = counterfeit, light-yellow = real currency) and a UV light. The pen is going to be the easiest and fastest to use, but as a 2nd line of defense, and one that is foolproof, you’ve got the UV light that will illuminate the holographic strip inside the bills ($5 and up) showing the actual denomination.Why is the UV light so important? Because counterfeiters have been known to whitewash bills, which is the act of “washing” the art off of the original, small denomination bill and printing new art from a larger denomination bill. That means you’ve got legit currency that passes the pen test, because it’s a real bill, but fails the UV test because the strip says $5 instead of $20, or $50, or $100! This is no joke, people. The bigger the value of the all-cash sale the more likely you are to find counterfeit money. Spend $9 and you’ve essentially solved that problem.
- Western Union: Typically this scam is used in conjunction with a fraudulent check as well, but I’ll cover both. Western Union, while a great service for most people, has one very big issue. Once you send money it’s gone. It can’t be reversed like a bank transaction and if you don’t trust the person you just sent money to, guess what? You’re out a lot of money. Even worse? The majority of criminals that ask you to wire money via Western Union are conducting business under a stolen identity!It’s quite safe to say you will never see that money again. And the sad part is it can actually get a hell of a lot worse than that with this related scam.See, scammers like money.They see money in your product and they see money in you, they typically want it all, they’re that greedy. So, they do what any enterprising scammer would do to relieve you of every possible dime. They steal your product and your money! “But, I’m not a buyer” you say “how can they steal my money?” I’ll show you.Jane posts an ad for her 2012 Toyota Camry. She wants $11,500.
Her ad is simple, includes a lot of photos and she’s just waiting for the right buyer.
The same day she gets a call from “Robert” in Ohio. He’d love to be able to look at the car, but he can’t rationalize the airfare. In addition, he really needs to get this car for his daughter who just graduated from High School. He says he’s willing to go out on a limb and buy the car sight-unseen, as long as you’re willing to take a check and ship the vehicle to him which he’ll give you extra to pay for.
Jane thinks, well, he can’t steal the car because I’ll wait until the check clears before shipping the vehicle.
Jane agrees to do business with Robert and within 48 hours he sends a check via certified mail to Jane’s address. There’s an extra $1,200 for shipping included. Robert then sends her an email saying that she hopes she got the check and that he’s arranged for the auto transport company to pick it up.
Seems to be going smoothly, right?
Jane deposits the check in her bank account, and within 72 hours the check has cleared and the money is hers. The transport is coming the same day so she has no issue with loading the car up and waving goodbye. She hands the transport driver $1,200 and thanks him for the help.
That is the last time Jane will ever see her car, or the $1,200 again.
“What? How?!” you might say.
Easily. Robert isn’t really Robert. The guy playing Robert stole Robert’s identity. He got a check in Robert’s name, with Robert’s account information and sent it directly to Jane. Within a week Jane is going to find this out when her bank calls her to tell her there’s a problem with a check and the funds have been reversed. On top of any money she might have spent! So, the $1,200 she withdrew to pay the auto transport driver? Gone. He’s in on it. The car? Gone, he’s in on it.
Jane is now out the value of her car, $11,500 + $1,200!
The car has since been either stripped and sold for parts, or has a new vin from a junkyard chassis and is on Craigslist or eBay in another state.
These are just a few of the major scams you’re going to come across, but no one seems to cover the really shady stuff. The things that don’t always raise red flags. I’m about to list of a few of the scams that individuals run that you may not even know are scams.
Craigslist Money-Making Scams
Curbstoning/Curbsiding: This is the act of a buying a dealers vehicle from a private seller. At first glance “no one gets hurt” in this. You both get what you want. The buyer gets the car, the seller gets the money. However, there’s a reason automotive dealers are bound by certain laws and that’s to help protect the buyer. What’s really happening here is you’re buying a vehicle from a friend or acquaintance of the dealership, sometimes even the owner of the dealership themselves!
You say “Ok, so what?”. Well, the reality is you just bought a used vehicle, as-is, from a dealership with no guarantees and no warranties – essentially, no consumer protection! Furthermore, automotive dealers have stringent rules they need to follow before selling a used car to the general public. When they use Craigslist and let a friend sell it from their house, problem solved! It’s 100% off the books. And guess what kind of car they can sell you? Any damn car they want. You want a stolen car with switched VIN’s? How bout a high-end salvaged Mercedes they picked up from an insurance auto auction that they fixed up to make passable?
Wait, you mean you DON’T want that car anymore? I didn’t think so.
Much like counterfeit money there’s one very simple way to stop this before it gets crazy. The title is NEVER in the sellers name. There’s always a story about how they need to do this at a dealership or something similar. The fact is, it’s not theirs. Never was, never will be. They are selling it for someone else and you should walk away immediately. Don’t let dealers get away with this shady trick. Be smart. If it’s not a private sale it has no business being conducted outside of the dealership as dealership inventory.
The Fake Rental: This one is getting craftier every day and there are many ways to steal money in this one. Not all of the perpetrators are out to steal, some just want to get an affiliate commission, but many are.
What do they want? A deposit.
By now you know not to wire or Western Union anyone money, so if you stick to that you’ll never fall for this part of it, however, they’ve gotten a little sneakier. Lately affiliates and scam artist’s alike are copying ads off of Zillow and posting them as a “For Rent By Owner” ads on Craigslist. Absolutely nothing is fishy about the listing, it’s solid and it’s designed that way for a reason, because what they really want is your email address.
Once you reply to this ad you will receive a near-instant reply with an elaborate story. Sometimes this story talks about how competitive it is and that they don’t have the time to deal with people that “aren’t serious” and request a deposit wired or through Western Union, but lately, what I’ve seen is more subtle. They’re mostly affiliate marketers that are out to get a $30+ commission at the time and they’re using credit reports to do it.
Now, I’ll go into affiliate marketing in more detail in the affiliate section, but just know that their goal is to get you to pay for something (a credit report, typically with credit monitoring) in order to proceed with the rental application process.
I can stop right here without going into any more detail as long as you remember this “Every rental scam has a story”. There’s always a reason they’re out-of-town, or need money now, or need you to do something that requires money or time. As long as you’re aware of this and never pre-pay for anything, you should be A-OK.
The Fake Car: Craigslist Auto’s is one of the easiest places to get scammed online, and it’s not relegated to just one city – it’s a worldwide problem. The reason it’s such a big problem is that vehicles are expensive (big ticket item), they’re mobile (houses are not!), they require very little paperwork, and there are millions of potential customers.
That’s a recipe for fraud if I’ve ever seen one!
So, what is a fake car and why should you care? Because, similar to the fake rental you could be out a few dollars and a lot of wasted time. This scam is pulled off using almost the exact same tactics as the fake rental. The scammer takes the images from another Craigslist ad in another city, rewords it, drops the price to an unbelievable amount and waits.
Now, if you were paying attention to that last line you’d know there is one easy way to spot most of these scams. The price.
Why is the price so low? The scammer wants you to reply!
When you reply to the email you will get an auto-responder message (automated, nearly instant) with a story and instruction (sound familiar?). This angle is not designed to rip you off, necessarily, but it is designed to get you spend money on products that the scammer is paid a commission on. Products such as auto insurance, CarFax reports & credit reports. It may seem like small money, but if you were to do this in each state and get 1 person each day to follow the instructions, your commission on even one of those products could be $20 – $30. Multiply that by 50 and you’re starting to see the draw – it’s an easy $45,000/mo!
Well, it’s not really that easy, considering you have to find a way to get your ads up in 50 states each day, plus defeat the Craigslist SPAM filters, but it’s possible and it’s being done all over America.
So, how can you stop yourself from falling for this?
1.) The ads will almost never contain a phone number. A call to them is worthless, they need this to be automated and they need you to follow the instructions, and the links provided to earn a commission. Anything else isn’t going to pay out.
2.) The price is too good to be true.
If you do happen to get an email from these people, don’t respond. Report the ad to Craigslist as fraud and let it go. There’s no one on the other line, they aren’t going to care about your response, it’s an automated system designed to make money. Let Craigslist fight it.
Alright, I believe this is a good overview on how to make money on Craigslist. It is by no means comprehensive. I can’t possibly cover every service, or product, or give step-by-step instructions on how to dominate your particular niche, but definitely stay tuned, because in the Craigslist category on this website I’ll be covering tactics and techniques the pro’s use to drive traffic. It may not pertain to your exact niche (or it might!), however, the tactics are usually portable and ready to use in any niche and at minimum it should get your creative juices flowing!