UNITED STATES—Craigslist is great – we love it. It’s a phenomenon all on its own, ugly design and all. The best and worst of the internet can be found on Craigslist. Online classifieds lists, like Craigslist, are the go-to places for many people today when they’re looking to buy or sell something online, putting out ads that they’re hiring, or for people who are searching for jobs, both odd jobs and more permanent ones.

Even in the age of streamlined apps, Craigslist endures! We just seem to love it, across generations. You’ve probably found a great bargain on Craigslist, found a part for something that you couldn’t find at an authorized dealer, or even got a new roommate! But like everything out there, Craigslist is not without its dark side. Like most websites, it was created with the best of intentions (we assume) but people with darker intentions tend to take advantage of any platform they have access to. Through Craiglist, people have been victims to robberies, assault, and even child trafficking and slavery! If we’re not careful on Craigslist, or on any platform online, we’re also susceptible to the numerous scams that are played through using the famous classifieds list. You’ve got to use your common sense when using the website, and always remember these safety tips for avoiding the most common Craigslist scams.

Local is Better

Craigslist is aware of scams that occur on their website. They’ve got to be, right? According to their own advice, it’s best to deal locally when you use the platform for buying or selling. This way, they say, you’ll be able to avoid 99% of the scams that take place on Craigslist. The biggest benefit of dealing locally is that you’ll be able to transact face to face with a person. Of course, this makes for more certainty and a certain level of accountability on each side. That’s the ideal, anyway!

Avoid Fraudulent Checks

It sounds easy enough, but it’s important to know that it’s almost impossible to fight a fraudulent check! Don’t agree to accept or send a certified check, cashier’s check, or money order as payment. As a seller, there’s a high chance that you’ll be left high and dry after sending the goods over by courier to the buyer, or handing them over in person, if they’ve requested to pay you through one of these methods. A bad check can sometimes appear to clear at first glance, but by that time, the products you’ve sold are long gone and you won’t see a penny! As a buyer, it’s quite possible that after you legitimately pay for your goods via wire transfer, the seller has deactivated their account and has disappeared with your money.

Check Up on Who You’re Dealing With

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. In fact, that’s the whole point of this article! There’s no harm in doing a background check on the person that you’re going to do business with over Craigslist. And when scams are so prevalent on the site for those who are unaware, why wouldn’t you perform a background check? If you know any information about the seller, like their name and phone number, enter it into Nuwber and see if you find anything suspicious. If you don’t find any information at all, this could well be a red flag.

Never Share Personal Information on Craigslist

Yes, it’s convenient to share your number with the person from Craigslist that you’re transacting with, perhaps, but this is usually enough. Keep sensitive information to yourself! Once a contact begins to ask more questions about you, usually irrelevant to the deal at hand, be aware that something is probably up. Never share information like your date of birth, your mother’s maiden surname, or Social Security Number. Identity fraud is a real and rising problem, so back out of a deal before it’s too late.

Stay Away from Fake Escrow Sites

For large transactions that involve a considerable sum of money, you’ll easily find reputable, legitimate escrow sites. These act as a middle for two parties by holding onto the money until goods have been exchanged, after which the money is released to the seller. They’re convenient and can give you peace of mind when dealing with valuable goods. Even on Craigslist, however, scammers will make use of, or create, fake escrow sites. As a buyer, you’ll be lured into depositing your money on this site, thereby giving the scammer funds without seeing what you paid for – if the product even exists!

These fake escrow sites are copies of actual escrow sites (which are innocent in all of this). Don’t follow the link to the site that the seller has given you. Instead, Google it for yourself, check if the URL is secure, and look out for spelling mistakes or bad grammar in the copy on the site. The latter is usually a dead giveaway.

Do a Thorough Check of the Products

As we’ve all come to learn in the digital age and with the internet, editing photos happens all the time. Many scammers edit photos of the products they’re selling and post them on Craigslist, luring you into buying goods which look satisfactory, but are damaged or non-functional (in the case of appliances or electronics, for instance). When you meet in person, examine the product as best you can, covering all bases. Ask to try it out, too, to make sure that it works as it should.

Know How Craigslist Works

By knowing what the site offers, you can keep away from many Craigslist scams. For example, Craigslist does not back any transactions on its platforms, so so-called purchase protection on the site is a scam. The platform doesn’t have a voicemail service either, so back out when a contact instructs you to check your Craigslist voicemails – another sign that you’re dealing with a scammer.