Websites such as craigslist continue to be a top resource for people looking to buy and sell used – and unused – merchandise or household goods. While most transactions are successful and bargains can be found, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) reminds people it’s important to exercise caution and take steps to ensure your personal safety.
“Everyone loves a bargain and online sites like craigslist certainly provide a service,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “However, there have been instances locally and nationwide which have led to tragic outcomes. We urge people to be vigilant.”
Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when buying or selling from private parties online:
• Try to deal with local buyers and sellers.
• Never wire funds.
• Don’t give out any personal or financial information.
• Never accept money orders and be leery of cashier checks, as both are easy to forge. If you cash a fake money order or cashier check, the bank will hold you responsible when it discovers it is fraudulent.
• Apartment or home rentals should be thoroughly checked out and inspected in person before money is put down.
• Consider the risks involved with selling a high value item yourself vs. dealing with a reputable pawn shop, consignment or secondhand store. Is it worth it?
The following are red flags, signs you’re likely dealing with someone using craigslist to defraud people:
• The buyer or seller is from another country.
• The buyer or seller will not meet with you and will only communicate via email.
• The buyer offers to overpay the asking price and requests that you wire the extra funds back to him/her or a third party.
The riskiest part of buying or selling something through craigslist (or other online e-commerce sites) is the in-person meeting to complete the transaction. Here are some tips to ensure your transaction goes safely and smoothly:
• Set up meetings during daytime hours and in a public place (coffee shop, restaurant).
• Consider bringing a friend or family member with you if you have safety concerns.
• If the seller insists you come to their home or apartment, always think of your safety first and trust your instincts. If you don’t like the direction things are taking, walk away.
• Check around and see if there are any businesses in your area which act as brokers for online sales; firms that help ensure safety for both buyers and sellers and collect a commission on the sale of items.
As in life, most of the people you deal with when buying or selling items on sites like craigslist are honest. However, there are those who see these sites as an opportunity to commit crimes. BBB advises everyone who uses websites like these to make sure they’re doing everything they can to protect themselves.
The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.