Help me get rid of these Craigslist calls!

A typographical error on a Craigslist ad has Amy Pollick’s cellphone ringing off the hook. Is there any way to stop the calls?

Question: I’ve had a couple of weird phone calls and a text on my personal cell phone the past couple of weeks, inquiring about the “handyman ad.”


Well, the text indicated it was a Craigslist ad, so I went to look, and lo and behold, my personal cell was listed as a contact on the ad. I’m sure — hope, anyway — this was a mistake, that someone got the numbers transposed or whatnot. But obviously, I’d like my number removed from the ad.

I emailed Craigslist through the ad twice through the “Contact us” form (and saved a screenshot) – just to make sure someone sees it. I also flagged the ad. The calls stopped for a few days, but then started again.

I went through the flagging and contact process again, and I also emailed the abuse@craigslist address. I’d like the calls to stop. Can you help?

Amy Pollick, Decatur, Ala.

Answer: Removing the phone number should have been pretty straightforward. When you see a notice on Craigslist, you can flag it on the top right corner of the page. There’s an option for “miscategorized” that should have triggered a review and an edit of the number. (My apologies to Craigslist, but in researching this story, I may have inadvertently flagged one or two ads to test it. Sorry!)

It looks as if that worked for you, at least initially. But then the same person re-posted the notice with the same incorrect phone number, and the calls started again.

Craigslist has a generic email address you could have forwarded another complaint to. Some of its executives are also easy to track down. I list them on my consumer advocacy site, and the email convention is pretty simple — Yet none of the appeals seemed to work, and the calls continued.

One of the great things about Craigslist is that the ads don’t last forever. At some point, this notice would have been removed and the calls would have tapered off. But why wait? If the normal appeals and flagging process isn’t working for it, you should call for help, which is exactly what you did.

I contacted Craigslist on your behalf. It responded immediately and removed the ad. The calls have stopped.

Does Craigslist make it too difficult to correct a false ad?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Cybrsk8r

    The other option, of course, is that someone with an axe to grind intentionally posted the OP’s number in the ad just to send junk calls to her cell. This would explain the re-posting of the ad with the same “incorrect” number.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Could’ve been worse. Could’ve been a personal ad…

    Glad it got resolved, and since it sounds like the same number was put up again “accidentally,” the OP might want to get her number changed.

  • BillCCC

    It appears that Craigslist made it quite easy. Unfortunately the same ad was posted again with the wrong information.

  • backprop

    My understanding as of last year is that flagging, while helpful, will not trigger a review per se. It requires multiple flag of the same type (miscategorized/spam/etc.) by different users across a period of time in order to be removed, and the removal happens automatically. I’m not sure there’s an actual person performing any reviews. In a case like this, I think using the emails is the only sure way to reach a person.

  • ebog

    I still wonder what effect it has and the ability to block unwanted calls its really effective?

  • Justin

    A tough case. Craiglist sees millions of post daily. To monitor each and every one is impossible, even if flagged. Craigslist did take action the first time, but the person reposted.

    Other than taking it down again, which Craiglist did with Mr. Elliot’s help, not much else is possible. Nothing stops the person from relisting the number a third time.

  • Jeff Kolker

    This happens to my wife’s cell number. On occasion over the last few years, someone selling cars (same person we think) types in her cell number, and she gets a few calls. Fortunately it isn’t so many that we have a big problem with it.

    You would think that someone who wanted to sell something would make doubly sure the contact info was correct. If you want them to call, you have to give them the right number.

  • John Baker

    Chris glad to hear you got it straighten out. Variations of this have happened to the company I work for …
    1. Our 800 number is one digit off one of “those” 800 numbers. Its happened before that the ad guys made the mistake and the ad ran… Now every ad gets proof-read 3 times and every phone number dialed… just to be sure.

    2. Our “regular” phone number is one digit off … a local college’s financial aide department, the sheriff’s probation department and a no tel motel in upstate NY. Yea the motel ran a whole string of ads with our phone number. Quite fun.

    Glad things worked out…

  • Christopher Elliott

    I don’t think that’s what happened in this case. It was just a wrong number.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Is it even possible to block calls to your cell phone? I’ve tried, but the last time I did, my carrier (AT&T) said it couldn’t be done.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Or an ad for “adult services”.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If you have a smartphone, I’m sure there are apps for that.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Yes, there are, and I do. But shouldn’t there be a way to block callers at the carrier level? (Sorry, that’s a little off-topic.)

  • Jeff Kolker

    The problem would be…who do you block? Random Craigslist users? Usually, my wife just says..the post is wrong, and this isn’t the right number. I don’t think they ever call back. It is a different person each time.

  • Ben

    I was wondering why nobody was responding to my ad!

  • Charles

    Here is the problem: Craigslist does make it easy to flag an ad. But, they don’t have a way for you to enter the “why”. People get flagged all of the time. Someone things you are charging too much, they don’t like your ad, they are in a bad mood, etc.

    So, when an ad gets flagged and removed, all the poster may see is “miscategorized” or something like that. At the least, they should have “error in ad” as a category. Ideally, there would be a way to enter a short message as to why the ad was flagged. Then, the original user might get a message with “wrong phone number” in it and look at their number.

    I’ll bet the person posting the ads made a mistake entering their phone number. When the ad was removed, they probably noticed and just pasted in the same ad they had written, never noticing that the phone number was wrong. Sadly, they won’t get any customers, either.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That makes sense, but like you said, peopole get flagged all the time. I’m sure Craigslist doesn’t want to monitor all those flags.

  • Charles

    But it sure would be helpful for those getting flagged to know why they are flagged.

  • Rose Y

    Last year after shopping at an electronic store and I refused to buy its warranty for an item, “coincidentally” within days my cell phone was flooded with calls from loan companies. Calling “John Doe”, saying they could give Mr Doe a loan, from all over the country. Dealership agents left messages as well that they could help Mr Doe find his dream car, etc. I called a few places back, apparently they were all done online, online applications etc. I know someone did it on purpose with my phone number, because the last name provided cannot be a real last name.

  • Justin

    A rose might be a rose by any other name…

    But a phone call isn’t the same phone call when a single digit it off =).

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why would the electronics store have your cell number?

  • Rose Y

    They asked for the number when I made the purchase. I shouldn’t have given it to them.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed. A few years ago I bought a Tivo from Best Buy. They refused to sell it to me unless I provided them with my phone number. They gave me BS reason after BS reason. Finally I give them their own store number which they didn’t realize at the time. But there was no was in h*ll was I giving them my phone number

  • Sam Varshavchik

    You can, if you bounce your calls through Google Voice. Blacklisted callers get a “your number cannot be reached” intercept, and your phone doesn’t even ring.

    Another alternative is to assign undesirable callers to a silent ringtone.

  • bodega3

    We use to have a fax line, so I give that number out….lucky person who has it now!

  • omgstfualready

    Verizon has told me they cannot block incoming calls, just texts. If Sprint can offer that there is a great opportunity for them for sure.

  • AH

    i wonder if craigslist has changed their relisting policies. i listed something about 6 years ago, then realized that i’d omitted some important information. unfortunately, i couldn’t find any way to edit the ad, so i deleted it and tried to repost it. nope, sorry, your ad is too similar to one which was posted within the past (i think it was month), so i wasn’t allowed to post my corrected ad.

  • $16635417

    I had the same problem several years ago, except my phone number was in the newspaper. When I called to have it removed, it took a couple days for the ad to no longer appear, yet the calls continued for several weeks to see if the “Dodge has been sold yet?”. I found out that people hold onto the classifieds to follow up weeks later. In case the car hadn’t sold they would offer a low price to see if the buyer was finally desperate to sell.

    At least, once you find the way to get someone to remove it, the ad comes offline fairly quickly and (presumably) the calls stopped.

  • JenniferFinger

    I voted no, because it sounds to me like all Craigslist needs to do is just be informed that there’s a problem. So the problem here wasn’t at Craigslist’s end so much as it was that someone continued to post the ad with the wrong number. I’d say that person is at fault-not Craigslist-unless Craigslist thinks that once it’s been informed that an ad contains the wrong number, they don’t have any responsibility to make sure that that particular number isn’t part of any future ads by the same party.

  • Kate

    Mine ended up in the personal column of a local Chinese newspaper. Couldn’t work out why I was getting calls and texts in a foreign language suddenly. A friend who lived in China was back in town for a few days and she replied to one of the texts for me asking what was going on, which is where we found out what had happened. The paper though refused to believe it – swore that it wasn’t in any of their pages.

    One guy yelled at me in broken English about why I didn’t want to be with him. ‘I have a house! I have a boat! Why you not want me! You liar! If you didn’t want me why you put number in newspaper! You are liar! You are bad bad person!’

    The one who helped my friend work out where it came from then replied back with ‘glad I could help – can we still be friends?’. I never responded. No, buddy. We’ve established this was in error.

    Thought someone played a joke on me – but no. I’ve kept that idea though in the back of my mind for a prank at some later date when warranted though :)

  • Chicky

    OP here. Thank goodness, the calls have completely stopped. Since I don’t give out my cell phone number to many people, I’m reasonably sure this was just a mistake.

    It would have been nice if I’d been able to list a reason for flagging the ad when I did it, however.

    As I understand it, the way CL works is each “region” has its own offices, so presumably, Cragislist Inc. isn’t responsible for the whole shooting match. Rather, the regional offices handle their own ads, which makes for a much smaller pool to moderate. It’s even narrowed down to cities, and since I don’t live in a large metropolitan area, we’re talking several hundred ads, not several million. Maybe a couple thousand.

    In any event, I’m not complaining. The calls stopped. OP happy. And CL sent me a nice, apologetic email.

    P.S. If you have an iPhone and you upgraded to OS7, you CAN block individual numbers! When you hang up or don’t answer the unwanted call, just go to your “recents” folder, tap the “i” next to the unwanted number and scroll to the bottom. You’ll see “block this caller.” Tap that and you’ll get an option to “block this contact” or “cancel.” Tap “block this contact” and all future calls from that number go bye-bye.
    Took the folks in Cupertino long enough to come up with this, but they finally did. I have a 4s, and the feature works fine for me.

  • technomage1

    Good to hear the calls have stopped for you. There’s an free app for android phone users called Mr Number that does the same thing. I used it to block unwanted calls and messages when my number was similar to an a teenager who apparently lived on her phone 24/7…..

  • BMG4ME

    I doubt that there is much that can be done once the number is out there. What Craig’s list could do to prevent this is to assign a virtual number to each ad, then the end number could be changed after the ad is posted, it would also preserve the privacy of the poster. I personally can’t imagine
    putting my phone number on the web for all to see unless it was a business number though so I wonder why there would even have been a phone number to call!

  • ftm

    I’m having the same problem but I can’t find the add. I just keep getting random calls and texts. I have never been on craigslist! I went through all of the reporting but just get the standard reply email-no solutions. What to do?