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Avoiding Scams on Craigslist, OfferUp and Letgo

The popularity of direct selling websites and apps such as Craigslist, Letgo and OfferUp shows no signs of slowing down. And with good reason. They are a great way to make money by selling your unwanted items, or to find a bargain on something you need. But as with anything that involves money changing hands, opportunists have found ways to use these tools to their advantage. Take a look at some of the warning signs for these scams, and learn how you can protect yourself.    

Few Details & Reluctance to Answer Questions — Someone selling an item should know all there is to know about it. They should be able to answer your questions quickly and directly. If you ask questions about an item and receive vague, general answers, or the seller tries to change the subject to avoid answering, move on to another seller who can tell you what you want to know.

High Pressure to Close the Deal — It makes sense that sellers want to close a transaction quickly. But if they start resorting to high pressure tactics, or are unwilling to give you a day to make a decision, those are red flags. An honest seller will understand that you might need to sleep on it before making your final decision. If they seem anxious or agitated that you’re not willing to commit immediately, take your money elsewhere.

Not Wanting to Conduct Transactions in Cash — Paying or accepting cash is the easiest, most straightforward way to complete one of these transactions. As a buyer, you don’t want to give a personal check to a stranger. Skilled ID thieves can use your bank account and routing numbers fraudulently.

As a seller, accepting cash as payment protects you from the possibility of receiving forged or stolen personal checks or fraudulent money orders or cashier’s checks. Whichever side of the transaction you’re on, if the other party insists on a payment method other than cash, don’t go through with the transaction.

Refusal to Meet in Person — These apps were made to facilitate face-to-face transactions. If the other party is reluctant to meet, wants to work through a third-party intermediary, or insists on conducting everything via money transfers and snail mail, don’t waste your time. Both buyer and seller should be willing to meet in person. Of course, you’ll want to exercise caution any time you’re meeting a stranger. Take a friend with you and arrange to meet in a well-trafficked, public area. Many local police stations even encourage area residents to conduct these transactions in their station parking lots to add an extra layer of safety.