Tips for Staying Safe on Craigslist

Craigslist is an online bulletin board that hosts free classified advertisements for jobs, real estate, personals, items for sale, community activities and more. Founded in 1995, Craigslist has become one of the most popular websites in the world but can be dangerous due to its lack of moderation and offline risks.

There have been several highly publicized cases of Craigslist crime in the news recently, including theft, rape, sex trafficking, and even murder. We all heard about the 2009 “Craigslist Killer,” Philip Markoff, the Boston University medical student who pled not guilty to fatally shooting Julissa Brisman and the armed robbery of another woman, both at Boston hotels. More recently, Brandon Kent allegedly killed a 26-year-old man after visiting his home to see a motorcycle posted for sale on Craigslist. There’s no question that the dangers of Craigslist are real, but its seemingly casual atmosphere can mislead people into thinking they are safe.

Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones stay safe using Craigslist:

  1. Beware of scammers. If you find a normally expensive item on sale for very little, you may be reading the work of a scam artist. Keep an eye out for ads by scammers who disguise themselves as legitimate job recruiters. Steer clear of emails that ask for personal information or have attachments and links for you to click on, as these may be phishing scams. When in doubt, don’t respond to any suspicious emails.
  2. Protect your privacy. Avoid giving out any personal information such as your full name, social security number, address, employer name, birthday, etc. Divulging this type of data could put you at risk for burglary, identity theft, and cyberstalking.
  3. Create an email address specifically for Craigslist. If you post a “For Sale” advertisement, use the anonymous email address that Craigslist offers rather than posting your own email address.
  4. Never give out your telephone number. Use your cell phone number or consider investing in a pre-paid cell phone, so your address can never be traced.
  5. Trust your gut. If a job posting or focus group gig seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Stay away from dealing with out of state or international buyers. If you are using Craigslist to find love, check out our online dating safety tips. Learn to listen to your instincts because your internal alarm clock could truly save you.
  6. Meet in a public place. If you are meeting somebody to sell or buy goods, always agree to meet in a safe public environment during daytime hours.
  7. Bring a friend. When meeting a Craigslist poster in person, always bring a buddy or at the very least, tell somebody where you are going and who you are meeting.
  8. Never let anybody into your home. If you must give out your address (which is not recommended) because you are selling a large item like furniture, make sure people meet you outside of the home. Bring the pieces into a garage, driveway, porch or anywhere else out in the open to avoid strangers coming directly into your house or apartment.
  9. Report threats. If you come across a posting that is misleading, fake or inappropriate, Craigslist encourages its users to “flag” it. Similarly, if you receive a harassing email, or your personal information is published online without your consent, report the issue directly to Craigslist via their Help Section. If you are a victim of cyberstalking, consider reporting the harassing communication to the police.

Craigslist’s communal nature and “free” postings certainly make it a convenient marketplace to barter goods and find jobs, within limits.  If something doesn’t feel right, back out of it. Your personal safety is never worth the risk.

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