The Misadventures of a Craigslist Rookie

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Be safe when using Craigslist by not committing these mistakes.

Bargain hunters love craigslist. With a little bit of searching you can find a good deal on just about anything, and while the majority of craigslist users are well intentioned sellers, it’s still a good idea to use these safety tips to protect yourself while making a deal online.

Do not give out too much personal information.

1. Don’t give out any of your personal information. The easiest way for someone to steal your information and misuse it is by simply asking for it. Be wary of anyone requiring you to share your address, phone number, or bank account details in order to complete a transaction. Legitimate jobs and apartment rentals will sometimes require a background or credit check, but do not agree to them until after you have met the employer or landlord in person.
When posting an ad, it is recommended that you do not include your address, phone number or personal email. Instead, create a separate email account specifically for handling craigslist correspondence. If you have to list your phone number, insert spaces in between the digits (5 5 5 – 5 5 5 – 1 2 3 4) so that it is harder for scammers to collect it with automated phishing tools.

It's better do business with people you can meet in person.

2. Deal locally. According to craigslist, 99% of all scams can be avoided by dealing locally with someone you have met in person. Meeting your potential buyer/seller gives you an opportunity to size up the situation and decide if you are comfortable doing business with this person. Furthermore, if you deal locally, you can avoid having to ship items and wait for payment. When you ship in good faith, it is easy for a scammer to take your item and never pay you for it, or cash your check and never mail you what you purchased.

DO NOT put yourself in the situation pictured above.

3. Meet in public areas and take a friend. Never agree to meet at your house or private location. Public places like coffeeshops or parking lots of large retailers are ideal for daytime transactions (avoid nighttime deals at all costs). If you are buying/selling a large item, make sure that it is outside on the porch. This prevents you from entering an unfamiliar home, or from having to allow strangers into yours.

Using the buddy system is a great idea for craigslist transactions. Bringing a friend for backup will help keep you safe and reduce your chances of getting scammed. If no one is available at the time of your exchange, dial someone on your cell phone and keep them on the line in case you need to reach out for help. There are also useful phone applications to help keep you safe, like BuddyGuard.

Do not accept checks as payment.

4. Never wire money to a seller and watch out for fake payments. You should never wire funds to anyone you don’t know because it’s nearly impossible for you to get your money back if something doesn’t work out. Also, watch out for fake cashier’s checks and money orders. By taking these to the bank that issued them you can verify their authenticity before cashing them out and avoid any liability for false checks. For smaller deals, insist on cash. If you are buying a high-value item, then exchanging funds through PayPal is a safer alternative and the only information you have to give out is your email address that’s associated with the account.

If it's too good to be true, it probably is.

5. Trust your instincts. If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. And don’t be careful only with sale items, scams can happen with housing and job postings as well. If after meeting with the seller or landlord you feel that something isn’t right, simply walk away without causing a problem. If the seller or landlord doesn’t want to meet with you, then stop the deal because the item or apartment probably doesn’t even exist and you just saved yourself from making an expensive mistake.

Now that you are armed with these tips to help keep you safe, enjoy your bar hunting on craigslist. For more information click the resource links below. If you have a craigslist success story, comment below and share what tactics you used to make the deal an easy and safe exchange.

 

Sources: craiglist.org, GetSafeOnline.org, WiredSafety.org

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