Monday, August 16, 2010

What is a “Craigslist bot”?

There are two types of Craigslist bots:

Posting bots are used to post ads to Craigslist.  In theory, this is a legitimate action, allowing people to compose personal or business ads offline — perhaps several similar ads for different items — and post them with a single button click.  In practice, though, these bots are usually a form of spam, producing ads (especially personal ads) aimed to get people to reply and be directed to a website or simply have their e-mail address harvested for spam mailings.  By some estimates, as many as half the woman-seeking-man personal ads are bot posts.

Here’s a site with recommendations on how to spot these bots.

Reply bots are more clever, replying to your posts to get you to reply back, again either to harvest your e-mail address or direct you to another site which will do God knows what.  They have apparently broken the CAPTCHA security measures to access the ability to send you e-mail.

Some of the advice in that post above is helpful for spotting reply bots.  Here’s the most recent exchange I had with a reply bot, and how I could have (but didn’t) spot that it was a fake.  He replied to my post, and included a pic of a shirtless reasonably cute guy who is even wearing “gay” underwear (2(x)ist brand), saying:

i would love to meet a nice guy for a fwb situation as well. i am free today to meet. how are you? what is your name?

  • You can’t judge just by fractured grammar and capitalization.  I know plenty of real people who write no better than this, especially in online cruising scenarios.  It’s like their brain isn’t what’s engaged when they are e-mailing you.
  • My post said nothing about “FWB” (Friends With Benefits, aka Fuck Buddy).  It was a straight-up (ahem) kink sex post.
  • His post was sent at 1:44 am on Monday.  The odds of real guys being up and posting (and not strung out on something) goes down as the hour gets later, and reduces further after midnight on Sunday.
  • Although his ostensible name is “Darren”, his return address was junk:
  • The name of his pic file was also junk: fxKeDPlKwD0pTnkDLiPc9wxx.jpg
After I replied back that I was interested, but that I wanted to know what he was after regarding an FWB situation, given the kink sex nature of my ad, the bot replied (with two more pics, these with reasonable names like me13.jpg):

cool :) lets do this then yea?
let me know when ur free
just do me a favor and sign up on my profile
its a service i use to make sure the guys i meet are safe bc ive kinda had somebad experiences in the past
just make sure you say youre over 25 and it should be free
when ur done feel free to give me a call/txt (cells on my profile)
talk to u soon

“gaysingles” was a linked URL:, which redirects through at least three sites to resolve to is owned by (along with almost 37,000 other domain names).

Needless to say, once you’ve received multiple times the same boilerplate “screening” text directing you to some site you’ve never heard anyone mention before, you know it’s a bot.  But you can tell a lot earlier, if you know what to look for.

Curiously, my final reply of “You’re kidding, right?” got no further response.  Guess they got the address they wanted, and now I’ll get Viagra ads.

Updated on November 1, 2010
Posted a follow-up with several new bot replies.

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