The Internet can be a great tool for finding all sorts of things to buy. From Amazon to eBay, there’s no shortage of e-commerce sites where you find what you’re looking for, make your purchase, and it arrives in the mail a few days later. But what about Craigslist? This classifieds website offers great deals on previously-owned products, but it operates on a local level and almost always requires you to meet with the seller in person to complete your transaction. While probably more than 99% of Craigslist interactions are done with the best intentions and are totally safe for both the buyer and the seller, it isn’t hard to imagine how it could also turn into a dangerous situation. No matter how often you read the news, terms like the “Craigslist Killer” have probably infiltrated your consciousness at one time or another. So how do you ensure that you remain safe when conducting a transaction on Craigslist? Here are a few tips for things you should and shouldn’t do next time you go pick up that piece of furniture or used appliance.
Never do your Craigslist shopping alone – Even if you happened to stumble upon a listing put up by a seller with bad intentions, you can be almost sure that you will be out of harm’s way as long as you bring one or more companions along when you go to complete your transaction. It can be scary going to a stranger’s house, even if it is just to look at his coffee table, so bringing along company is always advised. It’s even better if you communicate to the seller that you will be traveling in a group before you bring your friend or boyfriend along with you. When making plans to come see the item, use the pronoun “we” instead of “I” so that the seller will know you aren’t coming alone.
Insist on seeing real pictures of the item – Often, lazier Craigslist sellers will post a link to the item they are selling as it appears on, for instance, the Ikea website. They will then claim that theirs looks like the one in the picture and you can come see it for yourself. Before agreeing to head over to the seller’s house, you should insist on seeing a picture of the actual item (even if it’s a low-quality cellphone picture). By asking for a real photo, you will be able to ensure that the item actually exists, for one, but also find out if it is really is in the condition that the seller is describing. This way, you can stay safe and also make sure you don’t waste time going to see a piece of junk.
Judge the situation – You will almost always be able to tell from a seller’s communication if they seem like a person you will be comfortable doing business with. Some Craigslist sellers just give off a “creepy vibe” that tells you to stay away. If you are even the slightest bit scared by your communication with the seller, it’s really not worth it to go into a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Just move on, and you will likely find another chair or ottoman that is just as good as the first one you were interested in, but that comes without the scary situation.
Meet somewhere else – With furniture, it is often hard to convince a seller to meet you anywhere but in their home. Most Craigslist users are looking to make a sale while doing as little work as possible. Still, if the item you’re looking to buy is relatively small and you don’t want to go to the seller’s house, you can ask if they’d be willing to meet you at a local Starbucks to complete the transaction.
Don’t get too personal – As a buyer, you should never reveal too much personal information to a Craigslist seller. Frankly, it’s none of their business where you live or what you do for a living. If a seller tries to ask you any sort of personal questions that make you feel uncomfortable at all, you should absolutely feel free to be evasive or change the subject. Once the sale is complete, you two will go back to being total strangers, which is exactly how it should be.