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5 Tips for Staying Safe on Craigslist

by Chuck Bentley April 29, 2016

Originally posted at Christian Post April 29, 2016.

Dear Chuck,

I’m a little afraid of selling things on the Internet. This month a man was sentenced to life in prison for helping his stepsister beat to death a man she met on Craigslist that she intended to rob. She’s in prison now too. So many people I know have made a lot money by selling things on the website or buying things at what seems to me to be an international garage sale, but I am a little afraid to use it because of all the stories you read like this one. I know Crown advises people to simplify and to sell things to downsize and earn money when possible, but do you think it is safe to use it?

Scared of the Worldwide Web

Beware Craig’s List Scams!

Dear Scared,

It’s very appropriate to be concerned about any exchange on the Internet, whether it’s money or just information on Craigslist or any other site. Just because we are Christians, and hope for the best, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be wise about how we conduct business. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Here are a few tips that I recommend when using such a service.

  1. Research what you’re buying or selling and stand your ground. You really need to know the value of things to get a good exchange. Too often people become deceived by a sales pitch or are cleverly discouraged from asking for something’s true worth. Negotiating is part of the sales process and is as old as time, but you need to understand what you have or what you want. Proverbs 20:14 notes the truth about such exchanges, “’It’s no good, it’s no good!’ says the buyer– then goes off and boasts about the purchase.”
  1. Find a safe location and make exchanges in public.Because of so many stories of robberies taking place when someone shows up with cash to buy some illusive object advertised on Craigslist, many local police stations have established safe zones for exchanges. Washington, D.C. police,for example, established several sites, announcing: “Suspects have used these online platforms to lure victims to meet them at locations to purchase or sell an item and when the victim arrives, a pre-staged robbery occurs … The community can do their part by safely buying, selling and trading online goods at our designated locations.” Call your local police station to learn where they recommend you conducting business with strangers.
  1. Join a local buyers exchange and enjoy safety in numbers. Often organized on Facebook by zip code, local buyers exchanges allow a smaller group with more accountability to buy and sell items. You may find this a less stressful way to buy and sell items.
  1. Protect Your Identity. Many scam artists are looking for ways to trick you into giving them personal information. They may list an item for sale at a “too good to be true” price and then when you contact them, they say it is already sold. The idea is to get your personal information for identity theft purposes. Guard your personal information as carefully as your finances.
  1. Follow the Warnings. Craigslist posts a number of warnings and tips for avoiding a fraud.  Be sure to read the warnings and put them into practice.

Hopefully, you can continue to use online services without fear of harm, loss or scam artists. In today’s world, unfortunately that requires vigilance.

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