All too often we hear about scandals and how people have been victimized as a result of using Craigslist. On the other hand, we never hear about all the success stories of people who use it all the time, and this has unfortunately caused many people to dismiss Craigslist and avoid it like the plague. If you are one of those people, this article is for you. If you are already an avid Craigslist user, then what I’m going to discuss probably won’t be news to you but may be worth a quick scan in case you know of someone who might benefit from reading this article.
While I probably wouldn’t label myself an expert at using Craigslist, I do believe I’ve learned a lot over the last few years as I have used it successfully as both a buyer and a seller. My husband and I have used Craigslist to sell two vehicles, a complete bedroom set, a matching couch and recliner, two television stands, a television, a console table, a coffee table, a high chair, a computer, and countless other smaller household goods. I’ll spare you the rest of the list, but you get the idea. Through some basic common sense, a bit of good fortune, and the things I’ll talk about below, we have been able to avoid being victimized thus far, though we’ve had to dodge a few attempts.
So let me start out by saying that Craigslist, in and of itself, is not dangerous, malicious or some kind of scam website run by criminals. Craigslist is neutral. It is an online resource that, unfortunately, people sometimes abuse. When you hear the negative stories about Craigslist in the news, just remember that people are the ones to blame, not the website being used as a means to an end.
Since this is an article intended for beginners, allow me to quickly describe what Craigslist is and how it’s used. Craigslist is a free online classifieds site that allows people to advertise goods or services that they’re trying to sell, buy, or trade with other people who live in the same geographic region. Craigslist can also be used to search for jobs, connect with community groups and discussion forums, browse personal ads, and even look for housing. However, Craigslist is not involved at all in the transaction itself.
The website is craigslist.org, and once you are on the main Craigslist page, you can select the nearest city to where you live. Once there, you can click on whatever category you’re interested in – furniture, for example. If you’re in the mood to browse, just start scrolling through the page until you find something you want to click on. If you are looking for something specific, use the search box to enter a keyword. I recommend keeping the search terms generic, so you don’t inadvertently limit posts that are relevant.
General Warnings & Tips:
Long Distance Transactions & Shipping
Since the whole point of Craigslist is for you to deal locally and in person, the biggest red flag that something fishy is going on is if you are contacted by someone from a different city or country .The higher value an item carries, the higher the probability is that this type of scam will be attempted. When we were trying to sell our vehicles, we received several emails that were obviously illegitimate, and more than once the person lived out of state, could not come in person to look at the car, and said they would have their shipper pick it up on their behalf. Don’t even bother responding to these emails. Just report it as scam by clicking on the link in the bottom of the Craigslist email.
Requesting Payment, Offers to Pay More
Again, since Craigslist is for local dealings, there is no need for online payments, so you should never be asked for your account info for PayPal, eBay, or your bank. You also should not wire funds or have a need for cashier checks and money orders. These are all very common tools that scammers use to try and get your money. When performing transactions with a person you have met only as a result of Craigslist, cash is your best bet. Even if the person appears to be honest, if they write you a hot check, you won’t know until they’ve already hauled off your stuff. It’s best to avoid this drama and just accept cash. If you’re concerned about receiving counterfeit bills, consider buying a counterfeit detector pen, which is inexpensive and generally available at office supply stores.
Another red flag is when someone offers to pay more than the asking price because they want to pay for you to ship the item. If you’re dealing locally, there should be absolutely no need to ship anything. On the other hand, someone may offer to pay you more for a large item if they don’t have the means to come and pick it up. Offering to pay for your gas or compensate you for delivering the item is totally legitimate; just make sure you are dealing with a local person.
Level of English Proficiency
Exercise caution if the post/email is written by someone who clearly hasn’t mastered basic English grammar, and you can’t even understand what they’re trying to communicate. I’m certainly not suggesting you discriminate other users, but it’s definitely better to err on the side of caution. We’ve all seen those illegitimate emails from foreign countries pleading for our help and requesting us to send them our bank account information. When similar language is used on Craigslist and/or when communicating through email with a potential buyer/seller, you can generally assume that it is not a local person, and they probably are trying to scam you.
With the internet and social media at our fingertips, you’d be surprised what you can find out about a person simply by googling them. I don’t recommend spending a great deal of time trying to research the person online, and this exercise isn’t always fruitful, but I think it’s a good idea to at least give it a try if you know their full name. Whenever I have someone interested in coming to my house to look at what I’m selling, I always try to find them on Facebook first. There have been a few times I’ve been able to find the person and also find out that we have a ‘friend’ in common, which helps put my mind at ease. If you have any doubts, suspicions, or unsettling feelings about the person, then don’t agree to meet with them. Safety should be your number one priority, and again, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Meeting in Person
And speaking of meeting in person, if someone is unwilling to meet with you, it is highly likely they have ill motives. Don’t even waste your time. And my number one rule to meeting in person is to never do it alone, especially if you are a woman. If you aren’t married, invite a friend to come over at that time or at a minimum, let a neighbor know what time you have someone coming over to look at some furniture. The same rule applies, even more so, if you are going to someone else’s house to view an item. Depending on the type of item, meeting in public can be an option too.
The last thing I’ll suggest for beginners is to familiarize yourself with the warnings on the Craigslist website, however, I hope this article has alleviated some of your concerns and you’ll consider giving Craigslist a try. I’m a huge fan of buying used, and therefore, a big fan of using Craigslist. I believe the benefits it offers far outweigh the potential risks, and it is a great resource in contributing to healthier finances.