Chief: Take Care on Craigslist
Be cautious when working online.
(I still receive many inquiries regarding the use of Craigslist so I decided to rerun this column for anyone who did not see it before.)
I recently tried to purchase an item on Craigslist. The seller wanted me to send a money order prior to me receiving or even seeing the item. I was a little leery and ended the transaction. Do you have any advice for anyone buying or selling on Craigslist?
Craigslist is known worldwide for their classifieds for just about anything including, homes, rental property, vehicles, jewelry furniture, services, etc. With a few simple clicks and an email address, anyone can post wanted and “for sale” items. However, everyone needs to be aware and distinguish valid and scam posts on Craigslist.
Deal locally with individuals you can meet in person. Make every attempt to exchange in person instead of mailing money. Unlike E-Bay, Craigslist is not responsible for transaction mishaps.
This means if you send money to someone, you can't report it to Craigslist if you don't receive the item that you were paying for. Craigslist is not involved in any transaction and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services or offer "buyer protection" or "seller certification." Follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts on Craigslist.
Insist on cash. Never wire funds via Western Union, MoneyGram or any other wire service. Anyone who asks you to do so is probably a scammer. Fake checks and money orders are common, and banks will hold you and not the seller responsible. Never wire money to anyone under any circumstances. Most payments made by wire transfer are fraudulent.
Do not rent housing without seeing the property, including the interior, or purchase expensive items sight unseen. In all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent and that cheap item listed for sale does not exist.
Never give out financial information such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, eBay/PayPal info, etc. Do not submit to credit checks or background checks for a job or for housing until you have met the interviewer or landlord/agent in person.
Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services and know that only a scammer will “guarantee” your transaction.
Prioritize posts with pictures over text-only posts. If you are interested in a non-image post or would like more details, contact the poster but do not make any offers until you are fully satisfied. If they don't get back to you, look for something else.
Have some knowledge of what the item's average price is. This is more common for renting an apartment or buying a car over Craigslist. If you're not sure, browse through newspaper classifieds, other Craigslist posts, use the Kelley Blue Book for vehicles, or ask friends for a reasonable price range for that specific item.
The overwhelming majority of Craigslist users are trustworthy and well-intentioned. With billions of human interactions facilitated through Craigslist, the incidence of violent crime has been extremely low. Nevertheless, it's very important to take the same common sense precautions online as you would offline.
When meeting someone for the first time, please remember to:
Insist on a public meeting place like a café or mall.
Do not meet in a secluded place or invite strangers into your home.
Be especially careful when buying/selling high value items.
Tell a friend or family member where you're going or better yet, consider having a friend accompany you.
Take your cell phone along if you have one.
Trust your instincts.
Anyone with questions for the Chief’s Column may submit them by mail to the Grafton Police Department, 28 Providence Road, Grafton, MA 01519. You may also email your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include an appropriate subject line, as I do not open suspicious email for obvious reasons.
Normand A. Crepeau, Jr.
Chief of Police