If you are moving, trying to get rid of unnecessary items, or looking to buy new furniture on a budget, you have probably considered using an online marketplace such as Craigslist as a quick and budget-friendly solution. While finding someone to take your unwanted items rather than throwing them away, or repurposing furniture rather than buying it brand new is a great idea, arranging an unsecure transaction with someone you’ve contacted over the internet can present some seriously dangerous situations. You don’t have to avoid Craigslist all together, but being aware of potential scams and crimes can help you avoid becoming a Craigslist victim.
Danger: Stolen Items
Many items, especially bicycles, on Craigslist are sold for quick profit for little risk. Not only could you be buying someone else’s bike (or even car) who is probably looking for it and filed a police report, but you could be at risk for being picked up by the police with a stolen automobile (and saying, “I bought it off Craigslist” doesn’t exactly get you off the hook easily or get you your money back).
How to avoid it
Be sure to ask the seller questions about the item you are purchasing. Not only will this give you a better idea of the quality of the item, but you can also get an idea of how intimate the seller is to the product. If it’s truly their bike, for example, they should be able to tell you where and when they bought it, what types of additions/adjustments they have made to it, and when was the last time they took the bike in for a tune-up. If the seller does not seem knowledgeable about the item they’re selling, or if they seem to back off as soon as you start asking questions, this could be a red light that it will not be an honest transaction.
Danger: Robbery, Harm, or Worse
While Craigslist is an excellent display of human trust when buying and selling items, services, and meet-ups, there are certainly plenty of people who wish to take advantage of the trustful. There are many reported cases of people going to make a transaction with a Craigslist seller and then being attacked and robbed at gunpoint (especially if they know how much money you have with you), and meeting up with someone alone for a date or other such personal ad obviously has its dangers of personal harm.
How to avoid it
Always arrange to meet up in a public place (keep in mind that parking lots are not often highly trafficked nor do they often come with surveillance, so they are not good options) and bring someone with you or have someone waiting within sight (especially if you are going to look at a house or apartment). Look up basic information about the person on a search engine (look up their email, phone number, or name) to find out if they are credible. If anything seems strange or suspicious, back out of the transaction.
Danger: It’s a scam
Of course, there are certainly sellers on Craigslist who are selling items or services that do not actually exist so they can take your money and walk away. On the flip side, there are scammer Craigslist buyers who can also take the items you are selling without giving you money.
How to avoid it
Do not agree to a transaction if the seller does not wish to meet in person. Cash is always the most secure Craigslist transaction. If you are uncomfortable carrying a large sum of cash with you when meeting a seller, suggest meeting at a bank for high security plus you can easily withdraw and deposit money right there. Anyone who asks for a cashier’s check, wire transfer, or money order on Craigslist, especially if they do not agree to meet with you is most likely attempting some sort of scam. Be sure you see the item in person before you buy it. Even if the seller has sent you pictures of the item, it might not be as shown. Make sure it actually exists in person and make sure it is functional before you buy it. If you are selling, insist on the buyer paying you in cash as checks can easily bounce or be faked. Try to exchange the cash for the goods or service at the same time so the buyer doesn’t run off with your item before giving you money or the seller runs off with your money before giving you the item.
Danger: Identity Theft
Craigslist is a great resource for job and apartment listings, both of which can require sharing personal information in the process.
How to avoid it
Give as little personal information as possible when applying for a job or looking for an apartment over Craigslist. Keep in mind that legitimate companies will not require you to give personal information before an interview or before you see the apartment, so you should never send this information to someone you have not met in person or to a company that you cannot verify its existence. Also beware of “make money from home” jobs that ask you to buy anything ahead of time. Often these are scams that charge you the small fee at the beginning, and then keep your payment information and charge you additional transactions later on. And of course if you are selling your computer or other such personal electronics, make sure to completely wipe the memory of all personal information before selling.
- To go with your gut feeling. If you feel uneasy about a transaction or if the deal seems too good to be true, don’t risk a bad situation.
- You can report a listing on Craigslist if you suspect that it is a scam.
- There are more secure online marketplaces such as Ebay or Amazon, which have secure payment options and a buyer/seller accountability to protect you if you do not receive the goods you purchased or if you receive something damaged or faulty.
What other scams or dangers have you heard about in relation to Craigslist? Leave a comment for us below!