How to Buy and Sell Safely on Craigslist

Dec 13, 2012 by

As I’ve written before, Craigslist is somewhat of a guilty pleasure of mine.  I browse almost every day through my favorite categories and job listings, looking for stuff I may be interested in or good deals I can possibly flip for a small profit down the road.  I’ve used Craigslist for years without a single problem, having bought and sold several cars, video games, musical instruments and other items of interest.  That said, there are certainly risks associated with using the service.  Every now and again you hear about someone being ripped off, assaulted, or worse, and it is saddening when it happens but with any service that conveniently matches buyers and sellers as well as Craigslist does, it is bound to attract a criminal element.  Here are a few tips for making sure that you have a safe transaction.

These are appropriate for both buyers and sellers.

1) Vet your prospective buyer/seller.  Contact the buyer/seller by phone as soon as possible.  If they don’t have a phone, that’s a red flag.  Get a first and last name.  Look them up on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.  Perform Google searches for their name, phone number, email address, etc.  Be wary of anyone who can’t be found through simple channels.  It might feel a little like cyber-stalking, but the more you can learn about a person, the better your chances of a smooth transaction are.

2) Meet in a public place whenever possible.  Also, be sure to meet during the daytime hours, where there are plenty of people around.

3) Meet in a place that is popular and well travelled, especially if the item is small such as a video game, or a cell phone.  Malls, restaurants, merchants who sell similar items, etc. are all solid choices.  Businesses that are closed, or poorly lit parking lots are less than ideal.

4) Try to have a companion with you when you meet your prospective buyer/seller.

5) Make sure someone who cares about you knows where you’re at, who you’re meeting, how long it should take, etc.

6) Always deal locally.  Unless something is being offered at an absolutely exceptional deal, or the item in question is of some rarity, there’s no reason to drive hours on end to complete the transaction.

7) Don’t hesitate to walk away from a sketchy deal.  If someone can’t meet you because they don’t have a car, won’t give a phone number, or has some other non-sensical reason why they can’t meet at a public place, be very careful.  It doesn’t automatically mean something’s wrong, but it is something to be aware of.

8) If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Someone selling a brand new $1000 LCD TV for $400 might just be desperate for the cash, but generally speaking they probably have other motives.

9) If someone claims to have recently purchased the item, ask them to produce a receipt.  If they’re unable to do so and cannot establish a legitimate reason as to why they no longer have it, be very careful.  The item may very well be stolen property.

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