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Craigslist Email Scams: Be Careful Who You Respond To

Craig's List is a high traffic internet destination, but in recent years, it's become a magnet for phishers and scammers who are looking to get personal information from you such as your email address.  Why would they want something as simple as your email address?

Believe it or not, your email address says a lot about you.  Let's say your email address is [email protected]  Right away, an email lookup scammer knows that you work for Big Company.  With this information, they can ascertain where you're located at geographically, and make some basic assumptions about your age, income, and gender.  Marketers who sell or trade email address lists back and forth love this kind of information.  

How the Email Lookup Scams Work

So how does someone running an email lookup scam use Craig's List to get this information?  There are several ways.  

•    When you post an advertisement, you have the option to either anonymize your contact email address (and use the Craig's List remailer) or enter your real email address.  It's easy for the email lookup scammers to get it if you give it up directly.  Even with the remailer, though, all a scammer has to do is reply to your ad.  You respond from your regular email address, and bam - they now have your email addy.

•    Some Craig's List email lookup schemes are a bit more complex, and in reality, the phishers are looking for more information than just your email address.  For example, if a phisher is seeking even more personal data, perhaps they'll post a fake help wanted ad.  When you reply from your email address with your resume, all of a sudden the scammer has a lot of information about you, right?

•    Here's a favorite of email lookup scammers: They'll post an ad for a car at a ridiculously low price, but won't include any contact information.  Again, you respond to the ad from your email address at work, and they get the email lookup information that they're phishing for.  Plus, they've learned some financial information about you, and perhaps try to suck you into giving up details for a loan. Again, it's about more than your email address.

Keeping Safe from the Email Lookup Scammers

Craig's List is a very useful website, but you need to be careful and protect your email address information.  

The easiest way to protect your identity is to set up an email address at one of the web based services such as Yahoo or Gmail, and use that email address for your Craig's List account.  That way, whether you're listing or responding to an ad, the email lookup scammers don't get any critical information about you.  And, be smart - don't set up an account such as [email protected] - you've just given away your name again to the email lookup scammers!  Instead, try [email protected]

It doesn't take much work to keep your identity and email address safe from the email lookup scammers when you're using Craig's List.  It's the initial contact that email lookup scammers are seeking.  Protecting yourself just takes some common sense and forethought.

Email Spam & Scams