Using Craigslist? Steps to Protect Yourself

With over 50,000 users in the U.S., Craigslist is a highly popular classified listing service, but it has also become a haven for scam artists and worse. Some people even compare Craigslist to the “Wild, Wild West”, citing “nasty behavior…[and} criminal activity”, none of which is condoned by this online marketplace. In light of the most recent tragedy surrounding a sale made through Craigslist, consumers should take special safety precautions when using this online marketplace. Craigslist offers common safety tips like:

  • Never go alone. There is safety in numbers; bring a friend (or two) with you.
  • Always bring a cell phone to call for help.
  • Never wire money or hand over the item for sale until you’ve checked with the bank.

It used to be enough to simply meet in a public place to complete the transaction. Now, your best and safest bet is to use a Safe Trade Zone established by your local police department. Don’t take any chances. No sale is worth personal injury or worse.

In this area, there are Safe Trade Zones at the Huntsville and Madison Police Departments and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. In most cases you can use the lobby or parking lot at these locations to complete the sale. Both are constantly monitored. Contact your local police or sheriff’s department to find out more about the exact locations and rules for using each Safe Zone.

Here are additional personal safety tips you should consider before meeting a buyer to complete your sale:

  1. Create a separate email account for online transactions. In this case, if you reply to a Craigslist posting, you won’t have to give your real email address. This will help you preserve your privacy.
  2. Before taking pictures of your item and uploading it to Craigslist, be sure to turn off the Geo Tagging feature on your smartphone. To turn this feature off on an iPhone, go to Settings>Privacy>Location Services>Camera>Off. For Android users, go to Settings and scroll down to the Geo/Location Tag option an turn it off. For previous photos taken before disabling the Geo Tagging feature you can delete it, but it’s a bit more complicated. Check out Lifewire.com, How to Remove Geotags From Pictures Taken With Your iPhone for details.
  3. Always use a cell phone when contacting a prospective buyer, to avoid giving away your physical address tied to your home phone.
  4. If you are selling large, difficult to transport items, move the item to a secure garage, patio, or your front yard. Don’t let the buyer into your home.

Sources: BBB North Alabama and Andy O’Donnell, LifeWire.com - How to Buy and Sell Safely on Craigslist and Buy, Sell and Be Safe Online: Craigslist Safety Tips. Also check out Craigslist: Avoiding Scams and Craigslist: Personal Safety.

To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to bbb.org.