Access deleted, expired, archived Craigslist ads

So if you were looking for archives of old deleted, expired, flagged or archived Craigslist ads, you can use Harmari Search for Craigslist

harmari search screen with results

It is a repository of hundreds of millions of live and historic Craigslist ads, specially suited for investigative purposes.  Typical investigative applications include



Craigslist hides Contact information within ad

Recent changes to the Craigslist site have a major impact on how effective investigators can search for fraudulent and suspicious activity on the site.

Firstly, any phone numbers that are displayed in the content of the ad are hidden from view. The reader has to click “show contact info” for the phone number to appear. The good news is that these phone numbers can be reverse looked up through a Craigslist keyword search. The bad news is they will not be searchable via Google or any other aggregate search engine. Here’s a sample ad with the hidden phone number under the bubble.

Contact info hidden

Here’s the same ad with the bubble removed:

Show Contact Info bug

The second change involves the Reply/Contact button.  If the button at the top of the ad says “Reply” there is only an email address displayed.  But if the button says Contact, then there is a phone number, or email, or a first name displayed.
Craigslist contact button

The phone number behind the Contact button is not searchable within Craigslist:Craigslist phone number Contact no resultsHere are some statistics we recently compiled about the percentage of ads and if/where the ads contain the phone number, based on about 750,000 ads:

Location Number of Ads
Within Contact Button and Ad Body 162938
Within Contact Button and not in Ad Body 247160
Within Ad Body and not in Contact Button 98013

So what this means is when you keyword search for phone numbers on Craigslist, you are missing at least 37% of the ads. You might miss even more ads if you do not search all the common types of phone number formats being used, and doesn’t include spelled-out phone numbers.

Harmari Search on a phone number

Phone number search on Harmari covers all places the phone number is found in an ad

Harmari Search is the only comprehensive search tool that can capture all phone numbers everywhere. This includes all formats, including spelled-out format.

Learn more

Investigative alternative to a subpoena of craigslist

If you are an investigator and require information on old, deleted or expired Craigslist ads, do not look any further than Harmari Search, which contains a large repository of live and historic Craigslist ads.  Note that access to this search is only available to law enforcement, government regulators of industry, professional licensing boards, insurance fraud investigators, and licensed private investigators.  It is not available to the public at large.  Harmari Search for Craigslist currently supports all “For Sale”, and “Services” categories of craigslist ads in the USA and Canada.  Not only does it let you search by keywords, it supports multi-state/city, phone number, VIN or Make/Model/Year searches as well, which is not supported by a traditional Craigslist search.

However, it will only be able to search publicly available content of the ad.  For the “hidden” email account used to post the ad, the IP address, unfortunately a subpoena or a search warrant to Craigslist is the only other course of action available to investigators.  Visit their legal section on the craigslist website for more information.

Using Internet Archive / Wayback Machine for investigations

Investigators have a common question: what if I could go back in time to see what a website looked like a year ago?  Or even 3 years ago?  What about a week ago?  The Internet Archive provides just such a capability.  Inspired by the fictional WABAC machine from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which Professor Peabody used to go back to past eras in time, the “Wayback Machine” by the Internet Archive also goes back in time on the Internet.  Although it can be used in that capacity, it is critical to be aware of its limitations as well.   In fact there are active legal discussion on its admissibility as evidence in court.  See Onward Multi-Corp. Inc. v. Empire Comfort Systems, Inc., 2010 TMOB 29 (CanLII) or this discussion for US-based case law or this paper.

Archive Overview

Over 240 billion webpages are archived from 1996 up to today.   Popular websites are archived more frequently than others, and the website needs to be at least 6 months old for the Wayback Machine to pick it up.  It updates the version on record a minimum of once every 6 months.  Below is a survey of its use in popular websites / social media / e-commerce for investigations …


The most popular social networking site out there shuts the door on Internet Archive and many other search crawlers due to its robots.txt file.  Google provides a limited view of the users in Facebook, but can’t penetrate into the network due to similar restrictions Facebook imposes on its Web Crawler.



No further details available than the screenshot below: Twitter is not supported on Internet Archive.


Craigslist Power Search upgrades

Announcing the latest Craigslist Power Search with the following changes:

  • upgraded server for improved response time and uptime
  • added special category “Farm / Heavy Equipment” specially suited for auto theft investigators and SIUs
  • added Make/Model/Year search specially suited for auto theft investigators and SIUs
  • added account creation and account management for each user
  • improved user interface and layout of features
  • spamBuster technology to avoid spammy keywords in Craigslist search results


Find Old Craigslist ads or eBay auction pages within browser

Have you ever clicked the link to a Craigslist ad of something you were previously looking at, only to find it was deleted, flagged, or an error message? Well, by taking advantage of “offline mode”, you can see its original contents, pictures and all!

Update: Law enforcement, SIU, government, loss prevention, private investigators, and industry regulators can use Harmari Search for Craigslist to find old, deleted or expired Craigslist ads.

So here’s where you start: go to the link that is giving the error:

sample Craigslist live ad with the error message displayedIt’s not the end of the world; you can still retrieve the old ad by clicking Work Offline in your Internet Explorer browser.

So now you should see the title bar with “Offline Mode”.  Now click the Refresh button to refresh the page.

Now you should see the original ad if all is in place

Why this works:

When you visit a website for the first time, the browser stores all the pictures, the webpage code and everything related to rendering the page in its cache.  By going into Offline Mode, you are effectively cutting off your Internet connection and loading the website from your computer’s memory, stored in the cache.