Whether you're looking to unload an old TV, scoop up free
goodies, or score a MacBook on the cheap, it's hard to beat
Craigslist. The service lets you browse and create local classified
ads, all free of charge.
That said, Craigslist can be dangerous. If you're not careful,
you could encounter fraud, robbery, identity theft, or worse. While
the vast majority of transactions proceed safely, legally, and
beneficially, there's always the chance you're dealing with a scam
1. Trust your instincts
The number-one rule is to trust your gut going into any
transaction. If a Craigslist ad seems phony, or too good to be
true, don't bother with it.
2. Stay local
Craigslist is designed to be city/region specific. If someone
makes up excuses for why they can't meet in person, it's a red
3. Avoid cashiers checks, money orders, and wire
If something goes awry when making a wire transfer (through
Western Union or MoneyGram, for example), the money will not be
protected. Exchange cash instead, with large transactions being
safely performed in a bank.
4. Never use online escrow
If someone insists on using an escrow Web site, cancel the
transaction immediately. These sites are frequently run by
5. Don't commit without seeing the goods in
Make sure an item meets your standards, and be cautious of
those willing to buy an item without seeing it first.
6. Don't fall for job scams
Be wary of "employer" who don't require an interview, and make
sure to visit the job's physical location prior to sending personal
information, like for a credit or background check. Scambook offers
more info about job scams
7. Use a counterfeit-detection pen
This pen's ink will change color on wood-based paper, allowing
consumers to detect fake bills (because real money is printed on
fiber-based paper). You can buy one of these from your local
office-supply store, or order one online for as little as
8. Craigslist doesn't certify listings
Anyone who claims to be "certified" or "guaranteed" by
Craigslist is likely a scammer.
9. Research the buyer/seller
Use both Scambook and Google to search someone by their name,
e-mail, and/or business name. Make sure their identity is not an
alias and that this person comes up clean. You might not always
find useful information, but it's worth a try.
10. Don't give out more personal information than
Don't release any personal information in a public listing.
The only potential exception is a phone number, in which case I
highly recommend a disposable phone number (for which Google Voice is ideally suited
If someone needs to retrieve an item from a home address, put the
item outside and don't let the buyer in for any reason.