Why You Should Never Post Personal Phone Number on Craigslist

As one of the top 20 websites in the US that generate over $1 billion in revenue, millions of people around the world use Craigslist to post ads for jobs, goods, services, housing … even romance. It seems like if you’re looking for (or looking to get rid of) something, you can eventually do it on Craigslist, where you can either secure a hard-to-find item at an unbelievable price or make a handful of cash from something that was gathering dust in the basement.

How do You Usually Contact People on Craigslist?

There are a variety of ways to contact a Craigslist advertiser if you’re interested in making a connection or transaction. Click the “Reply” button under the posting title. In most cases, an anonymized, “@craigslist.org” email address is displayed with options to send an email using your default email client, copy the email address to your clipboard, or use a web-based email service like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL. Given the email is less effective, alternatively, the Reply button may reveal a telephone number, which seems to be a convenient way to communicate between buyers and sellers.

However, apart from ordinary buyers and sellers, Craigslist is also riddled with scammers looking to make a quick buck off people’s naivety. There are potential risks to posting your personal phone number on Craigslist for some Craigslist creepers are looking to scam you, steal from you, and possibly even bring harm to you.

What Can Craigslist Scammers Do with Your Phone Number?

The most significant danger of handing out your private mobile number is that it could fall into the hands of a cybercriminal and steal information from a cell phone. With so much information available in public records and sold on the dark web from data breaches, your cell phone number could link you to a lot of other personal or sensitive information like logins, usernames, passwords, and more.

Your phone number is out there on the web in various locations. Scammers can use stolen cell phone numbers and use it for two-factor authentication codes and other access to all your texts, apps, and other online accounts, they could have your cell phone number hijacked and do it through SIM swapping. This is how it occurs:

First, they buy a burner phone and pop a new SIM card into it. They then call your wireless phone carrier and pretend to be you. If the hacker has enough information to convince the person, they may transfer your service and phone number to that blank SIM card and the new burner phone. Now your phone number has been stolen, and you aren’t even aware of it. All your texts, phone calls, and 2FA codes will now go to the hacker’s phone instead of yours. If you have access to bank accounts and other apps tied to your phone number, they will now have access to that stuff as well. Many location-based systems will think it’s you just by the scammer calling from your phone number. If hackers get this far, they can then change all your passwords and lock you out of your own accounts. Very scary stuff.

10 Ways How Can Scammers Use Your Phone Number

Nowadays, the power of your phone number is immense, giving hackers and scammers a lot of options to do bad things. Some of the most common are:

  1. Access your social media accounts.
  2. A text message or contact your friends and family to scam them.
  3. Spoofing your phone number and calling people you know to commit fraud.
  4. Text phishing messages to your contacts – this is called “smishing.”
  5. Hijack your mobile phone number and take over your digital life.
  6. Commit identity theft pretending to be you.
  7. Access your online bank accounts or credit card accounts and take them over.
  8. Use your number for robocalls.
  9. Send phishing emails to your email account.
  10. SIM swap to steal your phone number.

How to Avoid Craigslist Scam without Online Contacts being Affected

Create a second phone number from Dingtone

When conducting business on Craigslist, you may need to create a business phone number. You can create a cost-free, disposable number on Dingtone instead of giving out your real number. Dingtone users can send and receive free text messages and make and answer phone calls over WiFi or a 3G/4G data network without using cell minutes. Dingtone provides valid phone numbers with true area codes (over 200 area codes are supported by Dingtone) and enables users to call and text unlimitedly at a low cost via Internet access. Dingtone serves as an effective extra phone number to protect personal privacy.

Be familiar with Craigslist and the services it offers

Lots of Craigslist scams can be avoided by knowing basic information about the site. Before using Craigslist, make sure you know the following: The Craigslist URL is http://www.craigslist.org (link is external). Scammers often use fake sites to lure buyers into paying for items that don’t exist. Always check the URL before finalizing a purchase.

Craigslist does not support any transaction on its site. If you receive an email or text trying to sell your purchase protection, you’re looking at a scam. There is also no such thing as a Craigslist voicemail service. If a contact asks you to access or check your “Craigslist voicemails,” you’re dealing with a scammer.

Don’t accept or send a cashier’s check, certified check, or money order as payment.

Fraudulent checks can be impossible to fight. Also, a bad check can seem too clear on sight, so you’ll agree to the sale and use the money that’s supposedly in your account. A few days later, though, you’ll realize the check bounced. By that time, the buyer has vanished with your goods, leaving you responsible for covering the funds you used while presuming it cleared. On the flip side, if you pay for an item with a money order or wire transfer, you’ll have no way of recouping your loss if the seller fails to come through with the goods.

Never share your personal information with a buyer or seller.

As always, when online, keep your personal information to yourself. There’s no reason a buyer or seller needs to know your checking account number, your date of birth, or even your mother’s maiden name. If the contact is asking too many questions, back out of the deal.

Be wary of fake escrow service sites.

Escrow services, in which a company holds onto a large sum of money for two parties in the middle of a transaction, can be super-convenient when buying and selling things online. However, they can also be a clever trap for unsuspecting victims. Scammers often create bogus escrow service sites to lure victims into dropping their money right into the scammers’ hands. The site will be a copycat of a reputable escrow service site, with some slight deviations you wouldn’t notice unless you looked for them.

When using an escrow service site, it’s best to find the site yourself instead of following a pop-up ad or a link. Check the site carefully for spelling mistakes and poor syntax. Also, make sure the URL is secure and matches the site of the service you intend to use.

Deal locally.

The “barely used” couch that’s up for sale a couple of states over might be better-priced than the one being sold just a 10-minute drive away, but it’s always safer to deal with locals on Craigslist. According to the site’s advice on avoiding scams on their platform, you’ll avoid 99% of the scams on Craigslist by following this rule. Keeping your transaction local will enable you to finalize a sale in person. Plus, there’s less problem of language barrier blurring the details of the deal.

Bottom Line

That may sound alarmist, but a quick Google search returns story after story of Craigslist users who are trapped in the midst of annoying, and even unsafe, situations.

The reality of what lurks online can be frightening, but guess what? You don’t have to close the website, shut down your computer, close your curtains and keep storing your dust-collecting stuff in your basement! The common and not-so-common sense precautions mentioned above can make your Craigslist experiences both safe and profitable.

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