Scammers use PayPal's trusted reputation to trick Craigslist sellers

Posted at 3:58 PM, Dec 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-12 18:41:52-05

A warning to anyone looking to sell their items on Craigslist or another online marketplace. Scammers have found a way to turn a legitimate payment portal into a device for their schemes.

Like the latest iPhone update, scammers are also upgrading their technology with trusted tools to fool you into forking over your hard-earned dollars.

“I use PayPal, we advise people to use PayPal,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland.

However, she says not to always assume that the transaction is safe. Sellers are quickly finding out that there are several ways the payment system can be manipulated so that you never see your funds.

A Craigslist seller contacted ABC2 about emails they had received from “potential buyers.” She received five inquiries in 24 hours. Every buyer provided an excuse for why they couldn't see the product and then offered to pay through PayPal.

"Your asking price is quite reasonable & affordable considering others I've seen lately, I'll take it. I won't be able to come for the pick up due to my work. I'll arrange for pick up and delivery with a shipping agent. I'll make the payment through PayPal for the safety of both of us,” one person wrote to the seller.

“They say, 'I'm going to come pick the item up.' The thing about PayPal, they don't cover or guarantee that if someone picks up the item. They will not guarantee the financial transaction,” said Barnett.

Items delivered or picked up in person are not covered under PayPal’s seller protection policy, however, they do cover items that are shipped with proof of shipment and online shipment tracking information.

Scammers bank on you believing every transaction is covered.

“And they'll say, ‘do you have a PayPal account?’ If you answer no, they'll say, ‘great, let me send you a link to PayPal,’” said Barnett. “The link is designed by a scam artist to look like PayPal and what you're going to do is put in your personal identifying information that's what they're after.”

Another scenario is when the buyer claims they overpaid you and needs you to wire back the extra money. Or a third scenario, the buyer sends you real money through a real PayPal account, then later you find out the PayPal account belongs to someone else and you’re on the hook to pay back the money even though you've already handed over the item.

Craigslist can still be a good place to sell your items, but it was designed for local, face-to-face transactions. If the person can't meet in-person or pay cash, don't go through with the sale.

For more information on ways to avoid Craigslist scams, click here.
It's also recommended that you always read the terms and conditions for any online marketplace or payment portal.

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