One Asks For Email on Craigslist: Why?

Here’s why someone would ask for your email on Craigslist:

There are legitimate and illegitimate reasons why someone might ask for your email address on Craigslist.

If you’re trying to buy something, they will need a way to respond to your offer, and the site pretty much gives up your email address by default.

Scams, spam advertising, and other malice also involve your email.

So if you want to learn all about Craigslist and why someone would ask for your email, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

One Asks For Email on Craigslist: Why? (All the Info)

How Do You Communicate on Craigslist?

Email does factor into the equation of communication on Craigslist, but the whole story is a little more involved.

Generally speaking, you can browse Craigslist without an account, but if you want to create a listing, then you have to interact with Craigslist’s mechanisms.

You can still do it without an account, but you have to input some amount of information for people to be able to contact you.

Craigslist offers a feature for people who create posts.

The site will generate a temporary email address for you which is then forwarded to your real email address.

In this way, Craigslist will end up asking for your email address, but people communicating with you on the website don’t actually need to know your real address in order to contact you.

That said, you can post your real email address or any other information that you want to include.

That’s entirely up to you, and depending on the nature of the post, some people find that to be an easier option.

For instance, if you’re posting a job opening on Craigslist, it might be easier to include business contact information in the post, but we’ll get into some of these ideas a bit more later.

Why Would Someone on Craigslist Want Your Email? (3 Things)

The underlying point here is that you can communicate on Craigslist without using your real email address.

But, that won’t always be the easiest or most efficient way to do things.

There are perfectly reasonable instances where it will make sense for you to reveal your email address to someone on Craigslist, and for the most part, it has to do with responding to a post.

#1 To Sell You an Item

This is going to be the most common scenario where you supply your email address to someone on Craigslist.

Let’s use an example to make it easy to follow.

Let’s say that you are looking for a new refrigerator. You look under the “for sale” section in your region and browse the appliances.

Eventually, you find a promising listing for a slightly used refrigerator.

It has a design you like, and it’s available “for pick up only.”

In order to try to buy the refrigerator, you will need to contact the seller in order to arrange a time to exchange money and the item.

Communication is the only way forward.

So, you click on the “reply” button, and you get an email address.

That email address looks pretty weird, but you go through the motions, and you send the seller an email.

You explain your interest and when you’re available to do the exchange. Then, you wait for a reply.

Let’s talk about what’s really happening with the site in this example.

The weird-looking email is a temporary email generated by Craigslist.

It allows the seller to make the post without making their email address public knowledge.

There’s enough spam email in the world that you might be able to appreciate why this is a nice feature.

But, what happens when you send them an email?

On their part, the email you send should be forwarded to an account they actually use, so they’ll be able to see your message and respond accordingly.

On your end of things, you probably sent them a message with your real email address.

There’s no need to panic. 

Craigslist has operated this way for decades, and it’s actually fine.

The reason you don’t need a temporary email address to buy something is that you aren’t publishing your address anywhere.

You’re just sending a single email to someone with something you want to buy.

Only that seller can see your email address, but they can see it. That’s so they can respond to it.

Let’s wrap this up with the original idea.

Sellers usually don’t have to directly ask for your email address because they’re going to see it when you contact them.

That said, in a manner of speaking, they are requesting your email address tacitly with the way posting works.

That’s the primary reason someone on Craigslist would need your email address.

#2 To Buy Your Item

What if you’re on the reverse side of that equation? Let’s revisit the refrigerator example, but this time, you’re the one selling it.

In this case, the buyer can contact you without knowing your email address at all.

Assuming you set things up correctly, you’ll get their messages through the mail-forwarding system, and it all works just fine.

They don’t need your email address, so they don’t have to ask for any other contact information, right?

In a lot of cases, email through the temporary Craigslist system is slow.

When you’re trying to set up the meeting to physically exchange the refrigerator for cash (and you should probably insist on cash), it might be difficult to communicate quickly and freely with the buyer.

If things feel slow and unresponsive, they might ask for a better way to contact you or keep in touch.

You’re not obligated to give them another means of communication, but this is something that happens a lot.

I’ve definitely used my real phone number to communicate with someone on Craigslist to buy a refrigerator before. It’s a thing that happens.

The point here is that someone can request an email address, phone number, or better way to arrange a meeting and keep in touch without having a hidden agenda or nefarious plan.

Sometimes, it’s just easier to communicate outside of the Craigslist platform, especially if you want to say that you’re stuck in traffic and running 15 minutes late.

#3 To Communicate Without the Platform

Then there’s the rest of Craigslist.

Sure, it’s a good place to buy and sell items, but there are entire dimensions of Criagslist that have nothing to do with buying and selling stuff.

A lot of businesses put up job listings on Craigslist.

If you’re trying to hire, or if you’re trying to get a job, you’re going to want more than just a Craigslist email.

That’s true on both sides of this exchange.

Businesses need reliable ways to contact prospects, and job seekers should definitely have access to real business information so they can see what kind of work they’re really applying for.

It’s a two-way street.

Similarly, what if you’re trying to find a new place to rent on Craigslist.

It’s really useful for that kind of thing, and to set up a rental agreement, both parties are ultimately going to need more than some temporary email address.

Tenets and landlords legally have to have reliable communication methods so they can pay rent or address problems with the property.

As soon as your Craigslist journey involves more than a single meeting to exchange goods for cash, you need better communication.

In these endeavors, it’s pretty normal for parties to exchange real email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, and potentially even more.

Why Else Would Someone Want Your Email on Craigslist? (3 Reasons)

For all of the legitimate reasons to ask for an email address on Craigslist, it’s not always benevolent.

Before you go assuming everything is always fine, I want to address some of the malicious behavior that is often associated with the site.

People do run scams on Craigslist.

Nefarious people and groups can also browse Craigslist for email addresses or phone numbers to spam.

There are a lot of unpleasant reasons why someone might want your email address or other contact information. Let’s go through it.

Then, when you’re armed with more information, you can discern for yourself when it seems reasonable or not to give up personal information on Craigslist.

#1 Scams

Scams are definitely an issue.

In fact, Craigslist directly recommends that you only do local exchanges and only in-person trades for cash and goods.

That’s because people use every trick in the book to scam each other on Craigslist (and across the world in general).

If you meet face to face for cash exchange, it’s a lot harder to complete a scam.

That’s exactly why a scammer would want a way to contact you that doesn’t involve an in-person meeting.

They might ask for your email address or other contact information in order to set up an online exchange.

With an email address, people can use cash apps like PayPal to pay for things. It’s quite convenient in a lot of settings.

But with Craigslist, it’s a red flag.

If they need your email address to send an electronic payment, then there’s a good chance that they’re trying to get something from you without actually paying.

Not everyone on Craigslist is scamming, but at this point in the site’s history, in-person exchanges are the norm.

Anyone trying to avoid in-person exchanges should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism.

#2 Spam

Unfortunately, this story doesn’t end with Craigslist scams.

The site is a good place to find viable email addresses that can then be sold to spam campaigns.

It’s one of the reasons why temporary addresses are so important on Craigslist.

Someone might contact you via the site and ask for your real email address with no intention of buying something from you or even trying to scam you.

They’re contacting users in mass, and the only goal is to get a bunch of email addresses for a spam campaign.

That’s the whole story. It’s not exactly dangerous, but it’s definitely annoying.

#3 Other Malicious Intent

And lastly, we come to the idea of social engineering.

Craigslist is ultimately a platform that connects people, and a talented social engineer can use those connections to create problems.

If you’re not familiar with social engineering, it’s basically the practice of tricking people.

That’s a broad definition, and it’s important. Social engineering works in a lot of different ways.

On the internet, social engineering is often aimed at getting people to reveal personal information.

When enough information is revealed, the engineer can use it to steal an identity. It’s not a fun outcome.

This is hardly the extent of what social engineering can do.

But to avoid going down a deep rabbit hole, let me leave it at this.

Someone on Craigslist might try to get personal information out of you because they can use that information to steal things.

Only give up information when it makes sense to do so and when you can thoroughly vet the other party.

Otherwise, a throwaway email address is enough.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.