Free online classifieds like Craigslist make it easy for people to sell their unwanted items and get great deals on the things they need. Unfortunately, Craigslist and sites like it have also attracted their share of criminals over the years. From high profile murder cases to less serious issues like thefts and robberies, Craigslist has certainly had its share of issues.
That does not mean the site is not safe, or that it should not be used. It simply means that both buyers and sellers need to exercise caution when dealing with people they do not know. These common sense safety tips are important whenever you set up a meeting with a stranger-whether you made contact through Craigslist, a newspaper ad or even a posting at the local grocery store.
Research Your Contact Online
The Internet makes it easy to research the person you are planning to meet. Once you have that person’s phone number, email address and other contact information, you can use Google, Bing and other search engines to search for that data.
For instance, a phone number that has been associated with scams or criminal activity in the past might come up when you do a Google search for that number. The same is true of email addresses. If you do find something suspicious, that is a red flag and an indication that you could be dealing with a scammer at best and a criminal at worst.
Meet Only in Daylight
You would be reluctant to set up a meeting with a stranger in the middle of the night. Why should Craiglist be any different? Set up the meeting with your Craigslist partner during the day. Daylight hours are generally safer – and it will be easier to spot any suspicious activity.
Set Up a Neutral Meeting Place
The place you meet is just as important as the time of day. Unless you are selling an item that is very heavy or difficult to move, it is a bad idea to invite Craigslist buyers into your home.
It is safer to set up a neutral meeting point in a busy area – like the parking lot at the local mall or a local office park. You can easily find one another in even the busiest setting simply by exchanging a few basic pieces of information – like what you are wearing or what kind of car you are driving.
Do Not Go Alone
One of the most important safety tips is to make sure you have someone else with you. Going alone to meet a stranger you met online is not a good idea – whether that person is a date or a Craigslist seller.
Ask a friend to come with you to the meeting. Having a friend along can keep you safe – and provide a second set of eyes for the item you are buying.
Avoid Carrying Large Amounts of Cash
A lot of Craigslist sellers insist on cash – and for good reason. Taking a check from a stranger can be fraught with peril, and it is understandable that a seller would not want to take the risk.
Even so, it is best to avoid bringing large quantities of cash to your specified meeting place. One alternative is to bring a small amount of cash for the deposit, then head to the closest ATM for the balance if you decide to purchase the item.
Keep Your Cell Phone Close
Be sure that your cell phone is fully charged before you arrive at the meeting place, and keep it in your hand as you approach the other party. That will make it easier to get help if the deal does turn out to be a scam.
Craigslist and other online classified sites have revolutionized the way we buy and sell used items. These sites provide a valuable service to consumers from across the country, and following these simple safety tips can help ensure that your transaction goes off without a hitch. Following these simple tips can help you finally clear out that garage, make some extra money and do it safely.