The things I’ve bought and sold on Craigslist reads like a veritable Christmas list: guitar amp, video game system, vintage toy collection, several board games, assorted furniture; it seems like if you're looking for (or looking to get rid of) something, you can eventually do it on Craigslist.
Whether it’s locating that hard-to-find item at an unbelievable price or making a handful of cash from something that was gathering dust in the basement, every transaction I make through the website leaves me with a smile on my face and the belief that Craigslist is one of the coolest things on the internet.
But there is a darker side to Craigslist that all buyers and sellers need to be aware of: some Craigslist creepers are looking to scam you, steal from you and possibly even bring harm to you. That may sound alarmist, but a quick Google search returns story after story of users who find themselves in the midst of annoying, and even unsafe, situations.
The reality of what lurks online can be frightening, but guess what? You don’t have to close the website, shut down your computer, close your curtains and keep storing your dust-collecting stuff in your basement! A few common and not-so-common sense precautions can make your Craigslist experiences both safe and profitable.
Here are three very simple steps you can take that can help protect you as a Craigslist user:
1. Stay Anonymous
The first and best way to protect yourself from Craigslist scammers is by eliminating any chance of them knowing who you are.
Kent Davidson’s blog post does an excellent job summarizing how and why you should keep your private information off Craigslist. He recommends that the first step you should take is to use the remailer option when creating as well as when responding to advertisements. Keep your personal email out of strangers’ hands by following his advice, and you won’t have to worry about random spamming or having your email address mass-mailed to a stranger’s 500 email contacts.
Also, in your ad and/or response, don’t share any private, personal information. Things like not sharing your address and full name are no-brainers, right? But you should also be cautious of sharing your phone number on Craigslist! Automated phishing tools can easily collect your number, and scammers search specifically for this kind of information. Spelling out the digits of your phone number on Craigslist doesn’t protect you, either; what if you give your (spelled out) number to some unscrupulous buyer who doesn’t like the product after the transaction? That person can now use your phone number to harass you, and if your number is a landline, they can even locate you.
In most situations, you have to provide a contact phone number, so the best solution is to put a unique number in your Craigslist postings that won’t get trolled later. This number acts as a mask that protects your real information from Craigslist creeps but still gets you the calls, so you can buy and sell without worry. It’s both convenient and easy to set up your unique number with TeleCapture, too.
2. Be Careful When and Where You Choose To Meet
Make it difficult for someone to take advantage of you. As much as possible, arrange meetings in a familiar, well-lit, busy public locations. When at all possible, avoid meeting at your home or business, and avoid meeting at night. This post on Craigslist safety suggests using an app like BuddyGuard to keep you a bit safer, too. Finally, trust your instincts. Don’t do business with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable or who pressures you, and always bring someone else along.
3. Pay With Cash
It’s way too easy to get scammed with checks, money wires, and other fake payments. Cash is king! For small purchases, insist on cash only. If you’re buying a larger item, Paypal is recommended as a safer resource that requires only an email address. Where money and strangers are involved, it’s so important to keep yourself safe, so keep the above tips in mind, too.
Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry. These tips will help protect you and keep your money secure when you find that awesome deal or decide it’s time to sell that antique pinball machine that hasn’t been used in decades. It only makes sense to do everything you can to protect your privacy online, so contact us to find out more about getting a unique number for your Craigslist buying and selling.