Common Craigslist Guitar Scams

Craigslist is no stranger to scammers. In fact, due to its nature, a lot of people take advantage of Craigslist and have given it a bad name. 

Today we’re going to look at some of those scams so you’ll know how to spot and avoid them.

While I can’t say there are scams specific to musicians, these are scams that have widely applicable structures and are used in all categories where products are involved. 

Common Craigslist scams involve:

  • Fraudulent money services
  • Fake products
  • Non-local ads
  • Fake Craigslist Purchase Protection
  • Fake Escrow Service Sites

While some of these are obvious, some are a lot more malicious and tough to spot. But luckily for you, I’ll be laying everything out and making it clear. 

While we’ll be looking at scams and how to avoid them, the best thing you can do is always read listings carefully and don’t give out important personal information.

Most common scams when selling guitars on Craigslist

Most commonly, the scams you’ll face with selling any product on craigslist are bound to be the same ones you’ll face selling a guitar.

The main ones include:

  • Someone claiming they’ll send you a check, sending you more than you asked for, and then asking you to pay back the difference (the overpay scam)
  • Someone requesting that you use Western Union instead of cash due to them being out of town for some reason (the out-of-town scam)
  • Someone sending you a fake check (fake check scam)
  • Someone requesting you use Escrow and it turns out to be a fake site where you don’t get money and your guitar is gone (fake security scam)

A pretty quick rundown of the topics. But these are surprisingly common and at least easy to spot.

The Overpay Scam

The overpaying scam usually occurs when someone contacts you desiring to buy your guitar and agreeing to your listed price. 

They then state that they will send you a payment that is far over your asking price, which will cover moving costs or some sort of extra cost and they ask that you pay back the excess.

The problem is that you don’t actually get paid, their check will bounce and you will have sent them money and your gear. 

So remember, if someone “overpays” you, it’s a scam.

The Out-of-town scam

This scam relies on the distance to try to get you to rely on electronic payments rather than physical cash payments. 

They often give some odd excuse about why they’re out of town for the while but will pay shipping fees and such. Some of it ranges from believable to ridiculous.

The bottom line is that it’s better to look to sell locally or to try to meet up and get paid with cash. 

If the person really does remain insistent that they’re too far but seem genuinely interested, you can ask to do a video call or have a phone call. Most scammers refuse this.

Fake Check Scam

This is very similar to the out-of-town scam. 

You may still receive this scam from a local scammer who claims that they don’t use cash, in this case, you should simply offer to meet near an ATM where they can draw money.

What happens with this scam is you either receive a fake check that looks very real, but comes from a non-existent bank. 

Or you receive a check from a legitimate bank, but it bounces after 7 days because it comes from an account with no money in it.

If someone is insistent about using a check, it’s likely a scam.

Fake Security Scam

This scam occurs when the scammer either offers you a link to a fake Craigslist Secure portal or sends you a link to a similar site like Escrow, but the links are fake links to a fake portal.

What happens here is that it will look like you’ve received money, waiting to be confirmed for when the scammer receives the gear. 

You might do this in person or long-distance, but what happens is that you will be giving your gear away.

How do you spot this one? Simply check the URL address for the link they send. 

Also, Craigslist doesn’t have a payment security portal.

Most common scams when buying guitars on Craigslist

When it comes to buying scams, the saying “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” really needs to be kept in mind. 

Oftentimes it’s as simple as seeing a listing that’s way below the reasonable asking price. Don’t jump on it.

The most common scams used on buyers:

  • Selling stolen goods
  • Posting an ad for an item that doesn’t exist
  • Offering fake Buyer Protection links
  • Non-local ads

Selling Stolen Goods

This is usually also accompanied by an insanely low asking price. I think this kind of scam is a little less common, but when it does happen, you usually wind up an accessory to a crime. 

At the very least, your item gets confiscated and you usually don’t see any compensation for your loss.

In this case, if a seller is asking too little for an item, they’re usually not worried about profit and are desperate to get rid of it quickly. 

As far as guitars go, it’s probably not as hot as buying a stolen car, but it’s still related to a possible criminal act.

Nonexistent item ads

Very similar to the previous scam. This scam is also often priced ludicrously low, but sometimes scammers might even put up an ad at a reasonable price. 

This one is probably the toughest to spot off the bat, because how do you know it doesn’t exist until you haven’t received it?

This is where safety precautions are your best friend. When buying from anyone, local is your safest option, or to use Paypal or sites like Escrow. 

If you’re buying locally, you should make sure to meet somewhere very public, like a shopping center, and only pay once you have the guitar in your hand.

Fake Buyer security links

This is similar to the fake links when you’re being paid, except you deposit money that they then take and you never receive your item.

The same thing goes here, if you’re sent a link for Craigslist secure pay, know that Craigslist doesn’t offer such a service and it’s a scam. 

With links to less obvious fake sites, check the URL for .com at the end.

Non-Local Ads

This goes the same for people wanting to buy from out of town. 

The usual point of this scam is to get you to use electronic payment, whether it’s buying or selling. In the case of being a buyer, the scammer will often try to direct you to UnionPay.

Does Craigslist offer any kind of protection against scams?

Nope. And it’s not because craigslist is secretly malicious, it’s because it’s a free ad posting board. 

Craigslist doesn’t charge people to post ads and in that, they have also elected to take no responsibility for what happens on their boards.

The most important thing to understand is that you take responsibility for your business on their platform. It’s there for you to use, but it’s at your own risk. 

And that’s fair in my opinion.

While Craigslist doesn’t offer legal protection, they do go out of their way to give you advice on how best to use their platform to prevent being scammed. 

There is a whole page on fostering user protection by spotting the signs of a scam.

How to prevent scams on Craigslist?

So how do you prevent scams? There are a couple of ways to make sure you don’t get scammed. I’ve mentioned Escrow.

Escrow is an intermediary platform that allows people to make online deals with a little more security. Essentially, Escrow holds onto the cash until the goods are delivered. 

This provides users with a little bit of security when working long-distance.

However, most Craigslist users recommend doing local trading and accepting cash-only payments. 

Sites like Escrow just give you a second option if you aren’t finding any interested local buyers.

I recommend familiarizing yourself with Escrow and similar sites so that you can recognize fakes and respond with a list of your known alternatives. 

Familiarity and knowledge will usually scare scammers off.

Some services like Escrow:

  • MangoPay
  • ShieldPay
  • StripeConnect
  • BrainTree

There are a plethora of others, and you may even get offered these, but the important thing is to always check the URL. 

Most of the domains for these services use .com as their ending and anything other than that is usually a good sign that it’s a spoof site made by the scammer.

The safest way to avoid being scammed is to listen to your gut; if something feels off, it usually is.