Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fake Profiles Part 3 - Craigslist Scams

Tags: craigslist, fake profiles

I've discussed fake profiles on social networking sites like MySpace and dating websites like Match.com - so it's about time I take on Craigslist.

Like MySpace and Match.com, Craigslist is targeted for fake profiles because it's a potential advertising resource. Many Craigslist users aren't necessarily net savvy, which makes them perfect victims for fake profile scams. With Craigslist, a scammer can easily create a fake profile, post a fake ad, and make a decent amount of cash in a very short amount of time with very little risk.

The first step for these scammers is to find an affiliate offer they think they can trick Craigslist users into signing up for. There are many types of affialite programs that work perfectly for this scam - anything from dating websites to pet training. For this example, we are going to use a dog training program as it's a common blueprint many of these scammers follow.

So how does one profit from combining a dog training program with Craigslist? Simple, post an ad on Craigslist saying you have a newborn puppy that's looking for a good home. Make sure to have a catching headline and let everyone know that the puppy is free as long as it's going to a good home. Now, like I explained in the fake profiles for dating websites post, create an email address with an autoresponder on it. Have the autoresponse say something along the lines of "thanks for the interest in the puppy. I've had so many great responses that it's taking awhile to go through them all. In the meantime, it'd be great if you could check out insert dog training url here. It's a great dog training program that I've been using and would love it if the new owners continued the training with the puppy."

And just like that, you've got your scam setup on autopilot. You'll get a bunch of people emailing you who are interested in the puppy. You're autoresponse will trick many of them into following your affiliate link to the dog training program that you'll get paid for whenever any of them sign up. Sure, not all of them will sign up, but even if only a few of them do, you'll have made a decent amount of money for very little work - especially since it's all on auto pilot once it's setup. There's no dog, no real email address, and definitely no real Craigslist profile.

Another thing about this scenario is that scammers can keep doing it for different locations until they've been reported or until they run out of areas to trick. Even then, all they have to do is create a new fake profile, new fake ad, and new fake email address and they can start all over again with a new affiliate offer.

One reason this scam works so well is that many people are using all their net awareness on looking out for people selling them products that are faulty or don't even exist so they lower their guard when they see something is free with no real strings attached. If you see somebody giving away a cute little puppy for free, you may just overlook that suspicious email response you get asking you to check out a puppy related product. And even if you are smart enough to sniff out the scam, there's going to be at least a few people who aren't so lucky.

For those scammers out there that use this tactic, you already know what you're doing is wrong, but apparently you don't care. Sure, you may not be directly stealing people's money by selling them a product you don't own, but in essence, you're doing the very same thing. You're involved in false advertising while breaking many of Craigslist's rules. And while I'm no lawyer, I'm guessing that it's incredibly illegal. Sure, you can hope that the court system stays in the dark ages with these kind of scams, but eventually it'll catch up to you.

If you use Craigslist and run across one of these scams, the first thing you should do is notify the advertiser (the owners of the product or offer that you're being tricked into signing up for). The advertiser usually has nothing to do with the scam and will be very upset to find out one of their affiliates are using such seedy tactics - especially when they could be potentially held liable. When you contact the advertiser and complain, you may just get that advertiser to break their relationship with the scammer. What this will do is force the scammer to sign up to be an affiliate for a new advertiser with a new product to sell - thus making them have to re-setup their whole scam. Sure, it's only a temporary solution, but it hurts the scammer more than just going straight to Craigslist because that scammer can createa new Craigslist profile in seconds.

Comments

  1. marie navarro Said:

    I have 4 emails and names and letters from 4 men who each say they live here...then say they are in Africa,Nigeria, china I also have some numbers...They all are still active on yahoo and have proof of them asking me for money. Match.com has done nothing about...but I an still watching and collecting names...I want to file a complaint and need help on where I should start. my number is 561-628-1284

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