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10 Ways to Stay Safe While Buying and Selling Online

linsaythomas profile picture
Linsay ThomasGuest Blogger
March 24, 2017 · 3.7k Views

If you have clothes, electronics, furniture or anything else you no longer need, you may be interested in selling your items to make some extra cash. Instead of holding a garage sale, many people turn to Craigslist to post classified ads and hopefully find interested buyers. Craigslist is also a great place to buy stuff. If you can’t find a specific item at a local store or are simply looking for a better price, Craigslist likely has what you’re looking for.

While buying and selling on Craigslist may be convenient, it comes with its caveats. Sometimes cons troll the site looking for victims. Buyers and sellers have been known to meet interested parties in person and proceed to rob and even murder them. Although this isn’t the norm, it’s certainly something to be aware of. Just like when meeting any stranger – safety first. Don’t make any assumptions. Stay safe when buying or selling online by following these tips.

lightbulb icon If you're still unsure about buying and selling online, don't worry! Other great options for low prices are Amazon, eBay, and Walmart for all the same goods from trusted sellers.


10 Ways to Stay Safe While Buying and Selling Online

1. Never meet in a private place.

public meeting

Source: The Balance

Don’t invite someone over to your home and likewise, don’t go to someone else’s house. Meet at a neutral site and always conduct the transaction in public in the event that something goes wrong. Coffee shops and fast food restaurants are good places to meet. If criminal activity occurs, you have witnesses. The best place to meet? A police station. They’re open 24/7. With a police officer on hand, you’ll be confident that your transaction will go smoothly. If not, you have law enforcement right there.


2. Tell someone.

For safety reasons, you should tell a close friend or relative what you are doing, who you are meeting and where you will be, in case something happens. If they don’t hear from you, they’ll know that something bad happened and you can contact the authorities.


3. Have someone accompany you.

selling on craigslist

Source: Huffington Post

Better yet, if you’re going to meet someone in person, it helps to have a companion. This is especially true if you’re a woman meeting with a man. There’s safety in numbers.


4. Meet during the day.

It’s risky to conduct business at night, when it’s dark and hard to see anything. It makes it easier for the other party to commit a crime. Meet during the day in a well-lit area so you can get a physical description of the other party in the event that a crime does occur.


5. Have a phone handy.


Source: Thornley Fallis

Keep your cell phone in hand when meeting with the other party. That way, if something does go wrong – you’re getting threats or the other party wants to initiate an altercation – you can quickly call 911 and get help.


6. Don’t give out personal information.

It’s just like shopping at the grocery store. You pay for the items and move on. You wouldn’t give a cashier your phone number, address or Social Security Number, right? Use the same common sense when conducting business in person. Don’t give out any information that identifies you and where you live. You don’t even have to give out your email address. Craigslist uses a proxy email address, so buyers and sellers never see your real email address. Offer as little information about yourself as possible.


7. Make sure the product works.

camera lens

Source: PetaPixel

If you’re purchasing electronics, appliances or power tools, find somewhere you can test the product before handing over the money. If it doesn’t work, you can decline the transaction right then and there. Once the seller leaves with your money, there are no second chances. It’s highly unlikely you’ll see or hear from that person ever again, and you could be out hundreds of dollars.


8. Use small amounts of cash – or don’t use it all.

For small amounts, it may be OK to use cash rather than going through the trouble of getting a cashier’s check for $10. But for large amounts, go for a cashier’s check. That way, you won’t have to worry about counterfeit bills or any other shady money issues. Better yet, meet at the bank. If you’re purchasing a car or other high-ticket item, you can conduct your business there. You can have a banker confirm that the financial portion of the transaction was successfully completed. Plus, you won’t likely be intimidated by a seller who’s pressuring you to buy an item you no longer want or a buyer who’s now trying to negotiate a much lower price.


9. Get the appropriate paperwork.

selling a car

Source: CBS Detroit - CBS Local

If you’re buying a car, make sure that you secure paperwork – such as registration or a title – showing that the person selling it to you is indeed the owner of the car. You don’t want to later find out that your new car was actually stolen. Plus, you’ll have difficulties registering the vehicle in your name without appropriate paperwork.


10. Go with your gut.

If the seller refuses to give you information about a product or if the buyer won’t meet you in public, consider these red flags. Look for other signs that something is fishy, such as requests for wire transfers, offers for much more than your asking price or buyers who are selling an item for a very cheap price. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be vigilant and if you get a bad feeling about a transaction, don’t be afraid to walk away.


While Craigslist can be a great site to buy items or make a little money on the side by selling them, it’s important to play it safe. Many scam artists use these types as sites as ways to take advantage of people financially. By following the tips above, you’ll be able to use Craigslist and other online sites wisely without fear of harm.

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linsaythomas profile picture
Linsay Thomas is a seasoned writer and editor who has written thousands of articles about topics such as saving money, healthcare, law, pets and education. She hails from California, where she lives with her husband, two children and a menagerie of pets. When she's not writing, she enjoys sports, breeding chocolate Labs and visiting the beach.
ericluoMar 26, 2017
Really helps.

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