Protecting yourself when buying off craigslist

If you have ever bought something off of craigslist you will know the type of anxiety that can come with meeting a stranger to exchange cash for goods or goods for cash.  If you are thinking about getting into buy and flipping items, you will be buying items off of strangers via craigslist at some point.

I have been buying things from craigslist for many years and never had a problem (knock on wood). I have had a few awkward situations where the seller’s item is not as described and I was forced to back out of the deal.   In this post I will give you a few pointers to stay safe.


Always meet in a public place:

This may be the single most important rule when buying and selling items over craigslist.  The only exception to this rule is if you are buying some sort of heavy item/furniture where you would pick it up at the sellers home.  Here in Arizona, we have a chain of gas stations called QuikTrip. QuikTrip gas stations are a very safe place to meet as they are always busy, super well lit, and have video surveillance over their parking lots.  We have QuikTrips everywhere and I always try to make sure I meet at one.  If the seller refuses to meet me at a quick trip, they better have a legitimate alternative like a Bank (during bank hours).  Walmart parking lots, malls, and fast food restaurants may sound like safe alternatives because they are busy, but can actually be dangerous because most customers are inside or walking to and from the establishment.  If you are at a gas station, you have many people “People Watching” as they pump gas into their vehicles.  If you were to need help or a witness, you are more likely to have one at a gas station compared to other places.

Bring a friend:

If you have a friend or a spouse who is willing to tag along, bring them.  I usually bring a roommate and it adds to the comfort level when having someone else.

Bring protection(if you can):

If you live in a state that allows firearms to be concealed you can (if comfortable and trained) take advantage of your right to carry a firearm.  I took multiple classed and training to obtain a concealed weapons permit and carry a concealed firearm with me for every transaction.   Even if I never have to pull the firearm out, it is worth it knowing I have one with me in case I encounter a situation where one is needed.   Its also becomes a great conversational piece when you notice the other individual has a firearm as well.  (gun owners love to talk about their guns)
               *** I do not recommend the above advice to anyone who has not taken the proper classroom training regarding Concealed Carry. 

Research the seller/buyer:

I do this with every transaction, it becomes a habit after a while.  I always reverse search their email and phone number on google.  Put their email address into Facebook and see if they have a profile, use some profiling to see what type of person they look like.  9 times out of 10 it makes me comfortable to see that they look like a normal respectable member of society.

I simply type in their number on google and see what pops up.  If you see a ton of craigslist ads come up under their name they may also be a flipper/dealer.  I have avoided a few situations (buying cars) where the seller claims to be a private owner on a vehicle and it turns out he is a dealer.  These shady guys wont tell you about the sales tax you must pay until you make the deal.

Know about the item beforehand:

Lets say you are buying a cell phone on craigslist. You want to know ahead of time if the cell has been blocked from service on Verizon or Sprint phones (t-mobile and at&t do not block esn numbers).  You can get the ESN number from the seller and check to see if the ESN has been blocked. Verizon/Sprint will block an ESN when a bill has not been paid or if the phone was lost/stolen.  You would also want to look at the water damage indicators behind the battery.  These show red if the phone has been in contact with water.


Use an alternate number:

Instead of using your home phone or mobile phone to make the calls or texts, sign up for Google’s free service called Google Voice.  you can sign up at with your existing Gmail account or create a new one. Best of all its FREE!  How it works:  When signing up you are given a phone number with the area code you choose. You link Google Voice to your current phone and can use your phone to make calls or texts or use the website to initiate calls. You can have a do not disturb setting so it goes right to voice mail so you do not get calls at night or when you are not available.  Voice mails are emailed to you or you can down the app on iPhone, Android or Blackberry to view/play.  Voice mails are even transcribed so you can read them!


I hope this post will help you when it comes time to meet a stranger from craigslist.   I can’t guarantee something won’t happen, but following the most important rule of meeting in a public place will decrease the chances of encountering a bad situation.  If you ever have any questions feel free to email me from this blog, contact me on skype or tweet me @bwilliams210