MEMPHIS (WMC-TV) - Two, sometimes three times a day, I get e-mails from folks who fell for a scam on the social network Craigslist.
The key words there are "social network."
That's all Craigslist is -- one big, global bulletin board where anyone can list or post anything, just like Facebook or MySpace or even a newspaper's classified ads.
It's still YOUR responsibility to verify the truth of what's posted -- and who's posting.
Former Entertainment Monthly editor Skip Press, who wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making Money with Craigslist (www.SkipPress.com), breaks down the most common Craigslist scams.
CRAIGSLIST SCAMS ON SELLERS:
* BUYERS WHO OFFER TO PAY MORE THAN THE ASKING PRICE. This scam usually involves some tricky story, like they're getting a lump sum from an estate, or they made a mistake and mailed you an overpayment. They want you to send a check back for the difference. DON'T DO IT.
* BUYERS WHO ASK YOU TO SHIP YOUR PRODUCT BEFORE THEY PAY FOR IT. They say they need it for a special occasion, and they say they'll wire you the money when it arrives.
* BUYERS WHO INSIST ON PAYING WITH BY CERTIFIED OR CASHIER'S CHECK. Sounds safe, right? Actually, those are the easiest to counterfeit. Press says don't accept them.
CRAIGSLIST SCAMS ON BUYERS:
* VEHICLE SALE REQURING SHIPMENT AND/OR ESCROW. The scam artist claims the car is overseas, and you have to wire the money now to have it shipped or put the payment in escrow. Press says that will always be a scam.
* STOLEN MERCHANDISE. If you're considering a valuable item on Craigslist, ask the seller to send you proof of ownership, like the original receipt or owner's manual. If the seller can't prove ownership, drop it.
* FRAUDLENT HOUSING. The dead give-away on this one is when the seller asks for a rental deposit by wire transfer. Turns out the rental is really a house for sale, and the seller has no connection to it at all. Press says it's often an address lifted straight from a realtor's MLS listing or from a classified ad.
Press adds that you are more likely to successfully sell something to a legitimate buyer on Craigslist if you...
* AVOID VAGUE HEADLINES. Be specific. Always include size, brand or model name and the product's condition. Don't be sensational. Get to the point -- and don't use abbreviations people won't understand!
* BE CAREFUL USING PHOTOS. Unless you're a pretty good photographer, photos can just as easily sink your sale as promote your product. Press says descriptions should be clear. If colors and patterns don't come out well, then you're better off using the written word.
* PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY. If you want a buyer to contact you by e-mail, Press says set up a SEPARATE e-mail account only for your Craigslist responses. Don't direct them to your common e-mail account!
If you would prefer they contact you by phone, Press says consider Google's Voice service (http://Voice.Google.com). It will assign you a free number that relays calls to your real phone number without revealing it.
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