How to Be Safe on Craigslist

We have all heard the scary stories about sales gone wrong on Craigslist. And, it is a good rule of thumb to be very careful when buying or selling with strangers. But, the convenience and price of doing commerce on this platform make some of the problems not very important. Since the world is an interesting place and sometimes your safety is tested, this blog post is about keeping your eyes and ears open when buying or selling everywhere.

To get started selling, you need to have an item to sell. Write an ad and keep the ad short. People are looking for items quickly and don’t have time to read mini books. Describe the specifics and if there any warranties still in place. Write a clear descriptive title with a short description, the age of the item and the dimensions. If they are interested, they will email you for more information. Include sharp photos of the items you are selling and post them from all sides. Make the item look enticing as there will be lots of the same items for sale by others and you want yours to stand out. Schedule to list the item near the weekend because people are available then to meet and they are looking at things from garage sales too so you get more traffic. If you get lots of inquiries, you don’t need to answer them all unless you want to be extra nice. Sometimes people will make you an offer that is ridiculous… don’t answer! If they don’t appear to be serious about a purchase, just move on.

One nice thing about Craigslist is that they let you use an email option through them so that you don’t have to give out your real email address. A proxy email address protects you from unwanted exposure. It helps keep spammers from your real email address. When someone responds to you with the Craigslist email, you can decide at that time if you want to give them your real email.

Whether you are buying or selling on Craigslist or anywhere, don’t give out your personal information. The job listings are notorious for having ads where people ask for your social security number so they can do a credit check. Don’t do it! There is normally no job available with these types of ads and they want your social security number so they can set up their own credit cards and other accounts. Just meet the people in person for financial exchanges and no credit information should ever be given. If you have to use any online purchasing, do it through PayPal.

Scams are prevalent on sites like Craigslist unfortunately. But, you can avoid them by not doing any wire transfers. Craigslist makes it very clear on their instruction pages that most people wanting you to use a money wiring service is likely trying to scam you. It is the scammers payment form of choice. So, avoid the red flag on this type of payment and just accept cash. Credit and Debit cards along with checks are not acceptable either because there is a delay time in you receiving the money and a lot can happen in that short period of time! They have your item and you have no money. Put in your listing CASH ONLY and this should stop the problems.                                                                                

Pricing is always a difficult situation. Do your research on sites such as Ebay and see what your item is selling for there. Then, set the price a bit higher. People like to haggle and will make an offer at a low price. You come back with a higher one but a bit lower than the listed price. And this goes back and forth until you get a price you like. Some people may start at a ridiculously low level. If they come back at a still ridiculous level, move on. You don’t have to waste your time haggling with people who are not serious. You know how much you want to get for your item, so stick with it. Someone will come along and pay the right price eventually. Sometimes people want to haggle with you when they meet you to pick up the item. Be strong and say no if their offer is still ridiculous!  Then there is the reverse psychology of pricing where you list your item super high and lots of people respond. Suddenly, it seems that your item is considered super valuable and everyone wants it. This gives you lots of room for haggling!

Even though you found what you were looking for on Craigslist and have agreed to meet the seller to buy it, never buy something without seeing it in person first. Sometimes people will take a picture they found online of the item they are selling and use it in their ads. When you go to pick it up, the item is scratched and bent and a mess. Make it clear to the seller before you meet that the purchase will be based on the condition of the item before money is exchanged!

When selling anything on Craigslist, you have to be very aware of scam emails. If you are selling something that is very popular, you can be guaranteed that someone is going to respond with a scam offer. If you respond to the email, you may end up on a list where you will get contacted over and over again with all sorts of other offers. You can tell if they are a scammer because their response to you is very vague and not as direct as most people who are really interested. They may ask general questions and not specific ones. They may not even identify the name of your item but have a general reference like “your item”. And then there are the offers that are over the top like offering you a price that is double what you are asking. These are scams, plain old scams. Do not respond, delete and block!

When it comes time to meet, whether you are buying or selling, always make sure that you are meeting in as public a location as possible. Meet in busy parking lots or in a bank lobby or inside a restaurant or cafe. Bring a friend with you. Do not go to a secluded place or somewhere that the stores are closed. This is for your personal safety. Bring your cell phone. When setting up the time and place, ask for their name and a cell phone number, just in case there are delays. Then you have information that can be traced. Meet only in the day time and if someone must come to your home because they are buying something too big to carry to a store parking lot, make sure that you have other people home with you or tell a neighbor that you would like them to stop over when the person comes to pick up. If you can move the item to your garage before the buyer arrives, this eliminates the problem of them coming through your house and seeing what you own. Keep your garage open so all of the neighbors can see what is going on. Leave a door open so that others in the house can hear what is going on, but if everyone is helping load up the item, then, keep the rest of the house locked as there may be someone else in the vehicle who could sneak out and go through your house. If you live in an apartment complex, give out your address but not your apartment number. Then you can meet them outside and if all goes well and you are not uncomfortable, you can show them into the apartment where the item is located. Over precautious? Maybe, but this is all for your safety!

Selling stuff on Craigslist is fun and is a great way to make extra money. But, it can be scary out there and when you are dealing with strangers, it is best to be overly cautious when it comes time to exchange the money. Keep your eyes open, be aware of your surroundings, have friends nearby and all should go well!

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