First, we’ll talk about some personal safety tips, to keep yourself protected, and then, we’ll go over some more “financial” safety tips, to prevent you from getting ripped off on Craigslist. Obviously, if you meet someone in person (someone local) your main concern is going to be your personal safety, whereas when you’re hiring someone further away, in a different country, your main concern will be financial safety. However, local people can still rip you off, so bear in mind that that’s still a concern.
So, the first bit of advice (and probably the most important one) is to trust your gut. If someone or something about a situation just seems “shady” or “off” a bit to you, then the best thing to do is to just avoid it. It doesn’t matter what promises you made to them beforehand, if the situation seems “off”, then pull out of the situation and/or transaction immediately and just move on.
Now, let’s talk a bit more about your personal safety, for meeting someone local. Make sure they’re not asking you to come to a secluded place, day or night, but especially at night time. If someone asks you to meet them in an empty parking lot at night, it’s time to move on. Also, if you’re going to meet someone, you should tell someone where you’re going, and keep a cell phone with you at all times.
When you’re meeting someone for the first time, meet them in a public place where plenty of people are around to see you both. If you’re having them come to your house, for a handyman service or something, make sure you have someone there with you… never meet them by yourself. It’s also ideal to have something which you can protect yourself with, such as a canister of pepper spray or mace.
Now, let’s talk a bit about protecting yourself financially. While there are many honest, good buyers and sellers on Craigslist, there’re a few shady ones who you have to watch out for as well, who use Craigslist as a means of stealing money, unfortunately. So, the first thing you want to be very careful of, is making wire transfers. If someone asks you to send them money via Western Union for example, or MoneyBox, then chances are, you want to stay away from them. PayPal is a more secure for transactions, but keep in mind they only offer Buyer’s Protection on physical items, not digital.
You want to be careful in general when you’re buying or selling expensive, or luxury items. If you’re selling jewelry, for example, make sure not to send it to someone after receiving a check before the check goes through… you also can’t really trust a check completely, because even if it clear, it can still be fraudulent.
The best way to receive money is if you can meet someone in a public place, and exchange the item with them for cold, hard, cash. Cash can still be counterfeit, so if you want, you can get a marker that reveals if a bill is authentic or not, though typically you’re safe when you get cash.
Hopefully that helps. There’s a lot of value you can garner from Craigslist, just make sure you stay safe!