Craigslist can be a great place to buy all kinds of items -- but you've got to be careful or it could cost you your life.
Follow this advice to stay safe when you use Craigslist
Some time ago, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution ran a story about a Lexus on Craigslist that had info, pictures and all kinds of legit-looking supporting evidence when it was advertised for sale. The supposed seller even gave specific info about the car and its history to potential buyers over the phone.
But when people said they wanted to come and test drive the car, the seller claimed they would only accept cash for the full $5,500 asking price. Unfortunately, one unlucky buyer who went to see the car with cash in hand was held up by a gunman and robbed.
Read more: Craigslist vacation rental scam
This is apparently not an isolated danger. Executive producer Christa is familiar with an incident where there was a cell phone advertised for sale on Craigslist. Police busted a carload of teens that stationed a friend in the woods with a rifle with the intent of also sticking up potential cash buyers who came to buy the phone.
Then we've all heard the horror stories in recent news reports about people actually being killed when they went to do a Craigslist buy or sell.
I don't want you to think Craigslist is radioactive, far from it. But because it's true anarchy, you need to take some common sense precautions.
1. Go to a police precinct to conduct business - I've heard people say Craiglist should set up locations with security guards for customers to transact business. That's a great idea, but they're a nonprofit organization, so that would be seismic shift in how they do business. Fortunately, some police departments around the country are being proactive and inviting people to conduct Craigslist business in their precinct. If you're isn't amenable to that, at least your buyer or seller in the parking lot of the precinct. Criminals with bad intent aren't likely to show up there!
2. Join a local buyers exchange group -- Usually found on Facebook, these groups will operate in some zip codes or certain contiguous parts of town in most mid-sized and large cities. You have to give them your info and they have to verify and accept you into their group. Of course, it's still advisable to always meet in a safe, well lit public place to transact business.
VarageSale is a website and app that acts as a virtual garage sale. It positions itself as a "fun and safe way to buy, sell and connect with real people in your neighborhood." Another similar one is OfferUpNow.
3. Always heed Craigslist's own warning -- "Deal locally with folks you can meet in person. Follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts." This advice pertains more to not buying a car or something else big sight unseen.
4. Don't carry large amounts of cash -- With the potential for criminal activity, it is just too risky.
For more info on protecting yourself, see our Protect Your Right & Identity section.