Craigslist may essentially still have the same minimal layout as when it started, but with 50 billion page views per month, the classifieds website shows no signs of slowing down. An overwhelmingly large majority of transactions that take place on Craigslist are done so by honest people simply looking to acquire goods and services. However, that doesn’t mean that it is okay to be complacent about the safety of yourself or even your home when it comes to interacting with someone on Craigslist.
There are a slew of measures that you can take to make sure that you safely engage with someone on Craigslist, ensuring that you are not jeopardizing anyone’s well-being. Take into consideration the following tips.
1. Insist on meeting in a public place
This should be a given whether you’re the seller or the buyer. Meeting in a heavily used parking lot during the middle of the day is often best for goods that are easily mobile.
If you’re selling something that is difficult to transport, this is where you may run the risk of dealing with someone with a little less honesty. If someone must come to your home, do everything you can to hide all other expensive goods in your position. Close your garage doors, pull the curtains on all of your windows, and if possible, transport what you are selling outside before the buyer arrives.
2. Keep your location ambiguous on your post
When you’re looking to sell something, the most that anyone should really have to know is the general city or town that you reside in. Avoid giving out any address (even down to just the street name) in your post. There is often little to no reason why your address has to be made public on your post. Think basic home security.
This even goes for if you’re listing your home or apartment on Craigslist for rental purposes. Only the neighborhood or apartment complex needs to be specified to start. More details can be exchanged as you speak with interested parties.
3. Look out for red flags when interacting with someone
Craigslist transactions should always happen with local people—or with someone who is close enough to drive to you. Determining a trustworthy individual is sometimes tricky, but a good rule of thumb is that they are those who provide relevant information regarding the interaction that you two are engaging with, are quick to respond to emails, and are willing to speak with you over the phone before you meet.
When talking with someone via Craigslist, there are several things that you want to keep a lookout for. Anyone who provides ambiguous answers to questions or asks suspicious questions themselves (about your home/personal life) is probably someone that you want to avoid doing any business with.
There are addition red flags that you should be cautious of when dealing with someone, these include:
- An individual who refuses to meet with you at a neutral location or they want you to go to their home.
- An individual who requests that you provide financial information, such as: bank account numbers, credit card numbers or PayPal information. Never release any of these to anyone!
- Someone who wants an item that you are selling to be sent to Nigeria (or another country) and that they’ll pay an additional fee to have these items shipped to that country. These individuals will not meet in person and will try to pay you via a fake PayPal account, money order, etc. These are notorious for being scams. Drop all communication with these individuals.
- Transactions that they want to be carried out by an escrow service, money order, cashier’s check, Western Union or another wired carrier. Never proceed with these!
4. Use SafeTrade Stations if possible
SafeTrade Stations started up in 2015 as a program to help Craigslist users have a safe space to conduct their exchanges. SafeTrade Stations are often in the parking lots of police stations, and can sometimes happen inside of the police station themselves. There is no charge for using the service, and hundreds of stations exist across the country.
More information about SafeTrade Stations can be found here: http://www.safetradestations.com.
5. Go to the exchange with a friend
It always helps to go to a Craigslist exchange with other people present, especially with someone that you already trust. Find someone willing to take an afternoon to go with you for peace-of-mind. Good friends will likely care about your safety, and rather go with you without you even having to ask.
It’s important to stress that you shouldn’t feel scared to use Craigslist. Hundreds, if not thousands, of interactions happen everyday with no harm done to any of the parties involved. It’s simply important to remember to remain vigilant about your safety as you conduct any exchanges through the website. Keep yourself visible to others and keep your own address secret if possible.