Spelling Out Phone Number on Craigslist: Why?

Here’s why some people spell out their phone numbers on Craigslist:

This is mostly done to get around software that is looking at phone numbers on the website.

Craigslist sometimes uses software that blocks or removes phone numbers from listings for a variety of reasons.

There are also third-party bots that crawl the site looking for phone numbers and contact information.

So if you want to learn all about why some people spell out their phone numbers on Craigslist, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s jump right in!

Spelling Out Phone Number on Craigslist: Why? (Do This)

Why Does Craigslist Block Phone Numbers?

Attractive young woman funny facial expression while looking at laptop

There are cases where Craigslist will block phone numbers from being typed.

This is not a universal practice, but when it is in place, many people have found that simply spelling out the numbers gets around the block.

The reasons for blocking vary.

For one, Craigslist might block a number if it shows up too frequently.

This is a sign that someone is spamming listings or running a scam outright. 

Just because your number is blocked doesn’t mean that you are being accused of anything.

Instead, Craigslist can use blanket number-blocking software to try to indiscriminately reduce the risk of scams.

Another reason Craigslist might block numbers is to reduce the risk of bots scouring through the pages to find people’s personal information.

We’ll circle back to this one in a bit.

Lastly, Craigslist can use blocking software to track how many listings a person makes in a period and cut them off.

Typically, if you’re making very large numbers of listings, it’s a red flag for the site.

Why Else Do People Spell Phone Numbers on Craigslist?

female hands while typing on laptop

So, people spell out numbers to get around Craigslist software, but there are other reasons to do this.

The most common is already mentioned.

Bots search for numbers and other contact information on the site. 

Any numbers that are found are sold to telemarketers or other groups.

Ultimately, putting your number on Craigslist could lead to a bunch of annoying phone calls.

These bots aren’t usually very sophisticated.

They are easily tricked, and spelling numbers or using similar tricks can prevent the bots from finding your phone number.

Despite that, anyone who needs to be able to contact you will be able to make clear sense of your post.

A third reason to spell out numbers is a little weird.

Some niche groups use Craigslist and other open sites to communicate in plain sight.

Some groups might have shady backgrounds and nefarious plans. 

But plenty of people doing this aren’t really trying to do something terrifying.

They are just part of a niche group, and something as simple as spelling out a phone number is an easy way to find each other on the site.

Maybe they are into lightsaber dueling or something.

Regardless of the motivation, coded language does show up on the site rather frequently.

Ultimately, you don’t need to worry about it.

Unless you are trying to send a coded message on Craigslist, you can do your thing and any secret societies will simply maneuver around you.

What Scams Should You Worry About If You Put Your Phone Number on Craigslist? (5 Tactics)

serious and thoughtful woman working on laptop with bright sunlight

Let’s circle back to the bots for a bit.

It’s pretty common for a bot to sell phone numbers to potential scammers.

The setup is good for scammers because a phone number listed on the website is likely active. 

That makes it a high-value number that they can use to try to reach you.

Because you put your phone number on a site like Craigslist, you are much more likely to answer your phone even when a complete stranger calls.

It’s important to remember that.

Most of these scams involve someone calling you or otherwise directly contacting you as per your preferences on the site.

They will try to sound like any other user, and then they will implement any number of strategies to part you from your money or valuables. 

Some of the most common scam tactics are covered below, but they all start with collecting your personal contact information.

#1 Fake Buyers

worried executive holding check in the office.

It’s one of the most common scams on Craigslist.

It can come in many different forms, but one way or another, the scammer is trying to get something from you without paying for it.

The most common way to do this is to try to pay with a check or money order.

They give you the check.

You give them the item.

You part ways. 

You then try to cash or deposit the check, and it bounces.

You are out of your item.

Another common way to do this is to try to complete a deal without meeting face to face.

They go through the same process, but this time, they mail you a bogus check.

You’re still out of your item, and you have even less to go on for any attempt at recourse.

Any time a buyer insists on a payment method that you cannot immediately verify (such as cash or Venmo), consider it a red flag.

#2 Fake Sellers

Sad, stressed woman while checking email on a laptop

There are so many ways to scam people as a fake seller.

Counterfeit items are pretty common.

Many items have a premium value.

You find a seller with something you want on the site.

You set up the exchange.

After you have purchased the item, you find out it’s counterfeit and worth considerably less.

In the same vein, a scammer might sell you something that is aged or damaged and thus worth considerably less than what you paid.

In more extreme examples, fake sellers will try to get you to send a payment for an item that you never receive.

The most common of these is for the seller to ask for a partial advance payment.

Once you send that money, you never hear from them again, and you certainly don’t receive the item you were trying to buy.

This right here is why face-to-face exchanges are so important for Craigslist.

You can inspect the item before you finalize the purchase.

#3 Fake Jobs

Worried woman using a laptop at night

Many people go to Craigslist to find job postings.

There are plenty of legitimate jobs on the site, but scams abound as well.

There are two red flags to look out for with Craigslist jobs.

If it’s a local job, you want to be sure they start by filling out tax forms.

Any job that skips this step is probably a scam job.

The other red flag is a job from an employer in a foreign country.

There are a lot of ways this can go badly, but one notorious scam involves the movement of money. 

The job listing claims that they need someone to help with wire transfers.

The idea is that they send you money, and you then send the money to a third party.

You act as a middleman in order to patriate or expatriate funds for a business.

In reality, this is a scheme to get you to give up your bank account information.

These scams typically end in basic thievery.

It’s actually worse if they send you money.

A personal bank account should never be used for this type of interaction.

They are likely trying to dodge taxes or launder money.

In either case, you could be helping to commit very serious crimes.

#4 Phony Websites

frustrated nervous woman is holding credit bank card in hand and looking at laptop computer.

Fake websites abound.

What typically happens is that you will go to a listing only to be sent to a website.

The website is where the transaction takes place, and you skip the in-person exchange altogether.

There’s a good chance that this is a setup for a scam.

These listings might be sending you to a phony website.

That website could be malicious and try to steal information from you.

It also might just be offering phony goods or services.

One scary example is the fake escrow site.

Escrow is a special process for purchasing real estate.

If you are the purchaser, you put money into an escrow account.

The escrow account holder is a third party. 

When they receive the money, they can verify with the property owner that the money is accounted for.

The property owner can then move forward with the title transfer.

When everything is done, the escrow company releases the funds to the owner, and the sale concludes.

This is a common service that helps ensure property sales go smoothly and no one runs the risk of getting stiffed.

You can see why a fake escrow site could be devastating.

The amount of money they process is large.

Being scammed out of that much money is more than most people could afford.

#5 Anything That Is Too Good to Be True

Woman looking amazed or surprised while looking at laptop

Here’s the ultimate advice when it comes to scams.

If something sounds too good to be true, it is.

People aren’t going to give you money for virtually nothing. 

Nor are they going to part with valuables for nothing on your end.

Scammers are good at sounding genuine, and if your guard is down, they can talk you into doing something that you probably know isn’t the best idea.

Stick to the basics—review items in person before purchasing.

Only accept verifiable payments.

Don’t make exceptions for complete strangers. 

Most of all, remember that many of these scams find you by using bots to scour your contact information.

If they don’t seem clearly familiar with your listing, they are likely running this scam a lot.


  • 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.

    View all posts