Use reverse image search to avoid Craigslist scams
Does that apartment or vacation rental seem too good to be true? Do some snooping with Google’s reverse image search tool to find out.
Matt ElliottSenior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
A few months back, some friends and the wife and I decided to take a trip to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. We quickly discovered that such a trip requires much more advanced planning than we'd done; lodging was scarce. With all hotels in the Crescent City at capacity, we searched for vacation rentals by owner. After striking out on some of the more legitimate rental sites such as Airbnb, we answered a few ads on Craigslist, many of which seemed too good to be true. After being repeatedly cautioned about this approach, we abandoned New Orleans for the Mississippi Delta, where cheap lodging, great music, cold beer, and delicious barbecue were all found in abundance.
Had I known about using a reverse image search to combat Craigslist scams, we might have had the confidence to secure lodging in New Orleans via Craigslist. Here's how it works.
If you are using the Chrome browser, you can right-click on the picture of the house in the ad and select "Search Google for this Image." You'll be taken to a Google Images results page, where you'll find out information that can include a guess as to its location along with any pages Google found that include matching images. If the image shows up in other sources or in ads for different locations, the listing may not be entirely on the up-and-up.
If you aren't using Chrome, you can still perform a reverse image search. Navigate your way to the Google Images search page and click the camera icon in the search bar. It opens a window where you can paste in the URL of an image from a suspicious ad you found online (in Firefox, right-click and Copy Image Location) or upload one yourself.
Reverse image searching can also be a useful tool in combatting catfishing, in which a potential paramour's profile picture may not be an honest representation of the person you're interacting with. And another tool in your arsenal for hunting for vacation rentals or real-estate rentals or sales of any stripe is Google Street View, which lets you view what's at an address as if you were standing in front of it on the sidewalk, and even lets you take a virtual stroll around the neighborhood.