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How to Safely Buy and Sell on Craigslist - Is Craigslist Safe?

Updated on December 13, 2011

Is Craigslist Safe?

Craigslist can be a great way to get rid of stuff you no longer need, or a way to earn extra money. In fact, some people make their entire living solely off of Craigslist by purchasing underpriced items and later reselling them for a tidy profit.

But is Craigslist safe? If not, how can I safely buy and sell on Craigslist?

Craigslist is an online classified service for regular people to buy and sell goods and services, as well as post job listings, houses for sale, etc. If you are new to Craigslist, likely the only thing you have heard about it is that it is a place for escorts and adult services, or that people who use it get murdered and beat up.

I hate to say it, but this is partly true.

People who aren’t careful on Craigslist have paid severe penalties in the form of muggings, beatings, robberies, and worse, murders.

Before we go on, I must say that the vast majority of Craigslist transactions go off without a hitch. I have used it many times and have never even had a close call. I would also venture to say that Craigslist is as safe as you are. If you are careful and diligent, you will make money, find rare collectibles, better your life, and never have to worry about you or your family’s safety.

How to Stay Safe on Craigslist

Below are the steps you need to take to safely buy and sell on Craigslist:

  • Create a new, generic email address that does not contain your real name
  • Always meet in a secure public location during the day
  • Make sure you are the first to arrive and last to leave
  • Only deal in cash

Create a New, Generic Email Address that Does Not Contain Your Real Name

The most important thing to remember about staying safe on Craigslist is your anonymity. If people don’t know who you are, they probably won’t be able to do bad things to you. The best way to preserve your anonymity on Craigslist is to create a new, generic email address that does not contain your name.

Pretend your name is Jeff Kowazalaski and you live in a smaller city that has Craigslist. If you make a post trying to sell something valuable and I’m a criminal, and you are using the email, chances are I can look in your local phone book and find your address, because there likely won’t be more than one Jeff Kowazalaski in your town.

In my email responding to your item for sale, I asked if we could meet at 10 am, and your reply was, “no, I’ll be at work, how about 6 pm?”

I now know that you probably aren’t going to be home at 10 am, and that you have 3 TVs and some jewelry for sale. Don’t be surprised when you come home from work and your back door is kicked in, and everything is gone.

It is imperative that you take great steps to conceal your identity. This is not to be a shady seller, but to protect your family. No $20 item is worth compromising your safety for. Get yourself a generic email address without your name, make sure you don’t put your real name on the account so that it isn’t identified when you send, and be careful how you sign your emails. If your name is John or something common, your first name will suffice. If it is Marvin, just use your initials.

Always Meet in a Secure Public Location During the Day

When you buy or sell something, you should insist on meeting in a neutral public place, If you are buying a two-ton appliance, they may insist you come to their house and pick it up. If that’s the case, never go alone (you need someone to help you lift it, too). But if the item is not tied to its location, suggest a safe place to meet and do business, like a bank parking lot or a police station parking lot.

If at all possible, try to meet during the day, for obvious reasons. If you must meet at night, take someone with you or meet in a well-lit, public place with security cameras.

Make Sure You Are the First to Arrive and Last to Leave

Wherever you choose to meet, show up 15 minutes early so you can be sure to be the first one there. When the transaction is complete, wait in your car until the other party leaves, that way they cannot follow you. Take a roundabout way home.

Only Deal in Cash

The main benefit of dealing in cash is no bank check with your name and address on it, and no means for the transaction to be tracked.

If you are selling something, make sure to put in your ad “cash only.” If you are selling something of high value, like a car, insist on the buyer paying with a cashier’s check. If you want, you could even meet them at their bank and cash the cashier’s check there to guarantee you don’t get scammed.

Make sure they hand you the cash first, and verify it is real before handing over your item.


Is Craigslist safe? With a high level of diligence and forethought, buying and selling on Craigslist can be a safe and enjoyable experience. For the vast majority of users, Craigslist transactions go off without a hitch.

If you’ve followed the steps above, your buyer or seller won’t know your name, where you live, where you came from, or where your going. That’s the best way to stay safe on Craigslist. I have used the tactics above for years, and they have never failed.

Note: the tips mentioned in this article are no guarantee of safety. Always tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to be back. If possible take a friend, or at least a cell phone. Remember, if something seems out of place, just leave or don't show up. No transaction is worth getting hurt over.


Have You Ever Been a Victim of a Dangerous Transaction? Vote and tell us about it in the Comments.

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