Sense & Centsibility Blog

Safety and Security Tips for Using Craigslist

In our financial counseling and even previous blog posts we encourage selling items to bring in more cash. Selling that no longer in use treadmill, for example, can be a great way to declutter your home, build up emergency savings, pay off a medical bill, or to temporarily balance your budget...and much more. However, we always include the caveat that if you're selling items online, such as Craigslist, that you are cautious and safe. The Minneapolis Police Department 3rd Precinct Property Crimes Unit came out with helpful tips when selling or buying items from Craigslist and also being alert to possible scams.

Craigslist Safety and Security Tips                                                          

  • Deal with only local persons that you will be able to meet in person.
  • Never accept personal checks; if you can’t get them to pay cash, consider payment through Pay Pal.
  • Don’t accept cashier/certified checks or money orders — they could be fakes.
  • Transactions need to be between users only; no third parties providing a “guarantee”.
  • When in doubt…always trust your gut; if it sounds too good to be true, it is! Get a second opinion from a friend.
  • If you post a “For Sale” ad, use the anonymous email address that Craigslist offers as opposed to posting your own email address.
  •  NEVER provide your Social Security number, bank account number, PayPal account, birthday, employer name, address or other sensitive information.Criminals who target Craigslist will use scams and schemes that many times have warning signs and other signals that could tip you off that the transaction is probably not legitimate. Here are some things you should look for and AVOID!


Recognizing Scams

  • Stop ScamsEmail or text from someone that is not local to your area.
  • Vague initial inquiry, e.g. asking about “the item” as opposed to the “TV listed in the ad”.
  • Watch for flowery language such as apologies or rambling about family problems; this is used to “sucker you in” and play on your emotions.
  • Watch out for the sweet talk as well; they will use this so they can avoid meeting you in person.
  • Any mention of Western Union, Money Gram, cashier check, money order, PayPal, shipping, escrow service, or a “guarantee.”
  • Inability or refusal to meet face-to-face to complete the transaction.
  • Seller asking for a partial payment upfront (especially an online payment) to “hold the item for you”


Other Helpful Tips                                      

  • I would ALWAYS meet the other party in a neutral, highly visible area. This is especially true if you are buying or selling high end, expensive items. In those cases, I would consider meeting them at the local police station or Sheriff’s office. Consider taking a friend or family member with you.
  • I would let a friend or family member know exactly when and where you are headed, what you are selling, and all the information you have on the other party. And always take your cell phone with you. Get their full name and phone number, and call them back later in the day to verify their information.
  • I would NEVER meet the party at a place they designate and never invite a person into your home (or give them your address) if you can avoid doing so.

However, this could be tricky if you are buying or selling large items, like furniture. In that case, I would have friends and family members present, and already have the items in your garage or front porch. I would not let the other party enter your home. Keep these tips in mind when you are using Craigslist and/or other sites for selling goods. By Shun Tillman, Crime Prevention Specialist with the  City of Minneapolis – MPD 3rd PCT

As a nonprofit, LSS Financial Counseling empowers people to conquer their debt and achieve their financial goals. We are also passionate about scam/fraud awareness. 

For more information on how LSS can help you, visit our website at or call 888.577.2227. Our financial counseling is free and confidential.