People safely use Craigslist to buy or sell items, to find jobs or to find places to live. In fact, there are more than 100 million ads posted on Craigslist every month, with more than 60 million users in the U.S. alone. Craigslist has more than 700 million local websites for communities in 70 countries. However, Craigslist is staffed by only about 30 people, which means you can't rely on Craigslist to keep you safe. The risks of robbery and fraud are very real, but if you understand these risks and take precautions to protect yourself, you can avoid the majority of threats.
The Risk of Bodily Harm
Muggings and robberies have been the result of many Craigslist ads, as have murders. Because one person usually has money and the other usually has an item of value when they agree to make an exchange, Craigslist offers a unique opportunity for criminals posing as either buyers or sellers. One man near Seattle was robbed three times in a span of five years while trying to purchasing electronics from Craigslist ads, according to Komo News in 2013. On one occasion he was robbed at gunpoint for $10,000, believing he was purchasing a lot of new iPhones.
The Risk of Stolen Items
Craigslist is also a means for criminals to get rid of stolen property. If someone steals a bike or a computer, it doesn't take much to take a picture of it and then sell it online, knowing that the cheaper the price, the faster the ad can come down. If you buy stolen property, you could be charged and prosecuted. As with most things in life, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Keep an eye out for missing serial numbers on items, as well as missing power cords or accessories that may indicate an item was grabbed quickly.
Scams and Fraud
Someone posts a job opportunity and asks you to fill out a credit report when you apply. Someone has an apartment to lease but when you get there, he explains that he brought the wrong key so you can't look inside. Another person wants to buy an item you are selling but wants to mail you a check instead of cash. Each of these scenarios could be legitimate, but they are also examples of what con artists and scammers do to steal your identity, your money or the property you are trying to sell.
Craigslist recommends dealing only with people locally to protect yourself. Always inspect an item before buying it. Be cautious about the personal information you disclose unless you are absolutely certain the reasons you're asked for that information are legitimate. Meeting people in a public place with lots of witnesses around can help protect your personal safety. This is important even if you have bought or sold items with that person before.
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