Hazards of Selling on Craigslist

by Evan Wade

Craigslist can be a useful tool for selling your stuff, buying other peoples' stuff, finding a job, finding someone to hire... the list goes on. Since launching as an email want ad equivalent in 1995, the site has grown into a service that millions use -- and most everyone else has heard of. Though avoiding danger on the site mostly comes down to common sense, it's good to know the potential troubles you could face in posting or replying to an ad.

Personal Safety

It's always a good idea to take care when meeting a stranger from the Internet, even if you've spent a lot of time emailing back and forth prior to the meetup. If you're performing an offline transaction after posting or responding to an ad, make sure you meet in public and bring a friend -- or at least tell someone where you're going. Though rare, people have even been killed after responding to ads.

In-Person Scams

Let's say you're selling a bike. A woman emails you, and after a few exchanges, you agree to meet at a nearby shopping center. You show up with the bike, she asks to test drive it... and rides away, never to be heard from again. This is just one way in which less-than-honest people can take advantage of online sellers, even when no credit cards, checks or PayPal accounts are involved. As always, be wary.

Online Scams

Keeping your transaction on the Web reduces your risk of physical harm and outright theft, but there are still some potential dangers, mostly in the form of getting ripped off. A buyer may, for instance, claim you never sent an item and file a chargeback with his credit card, leaving you short an item and the cash you were supposed to get. Craigslist also advises avoiding any transactions involving money orders, checks or escrow services.

Stay Smart, Stay Safe

Applying common sense will save you from a lot of Craigslist's potential hazards. If it sounds too good to be true, as the old saying goes, it probably is. Avoid meeting people who make you feel uneasy on the phone or via email, and look out for those deals that seem too good to be worth the other party's time. Craigslist, like the Internet itself, can be a useful tool -- as long as you stay safe.

About the Author

Evan Wade has been a writer and editor since 2000. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Indiana University.

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