If you’re thinking of selling or buying something through Craigslist, you might be wondering if it’s safe. Officer Melissa Doss, the Public Information Officer for the St. Peters Police Department, says any time you’re meeting with a stranger, whether through a classified ads website like Craigslist or otherwise, there’s a number of safety tips you should follow.
One of the best ways to help ensure your safety is to meet in a public parking lot. For added safety, Officer Doss says, you can meet at a local police department.
“In fact, they can meet in almost any police department in the St. Louis metro area. Just check first to make sure they have a 24-hour desk officer, because some jurisdictions don’t have that,” Officer Doss says.
The City of St. Peters’ Police Department at the St. Peters Justice Center, 1020 Grand Teton Drive, has a 24-hour desk officer, and people are welcome to use the parking lot outside the Police Department entrance or come inside the Police Department lobby for Craigslist transactions. You can just show up. There’s no need to contact the Police Department ahead of time to set up an appointment.
This precaution will help protect you from the possibility of a violent crime or robbery, and possibly deter the other party from trying to rip you off. Officer Doss says that in St. Peters the most reported Craigslist-related crimes are 1) the seller misrepresenting the item in the ad, or 2) the buyer using a fake cashier’s check. Officer Doss recommends against accepting any type of check. But, if you do, wait until the check clears before handing over the item. Counterfeit money is another concern, and Officer Doss says people should learn more about how to spot counterfeit cash. (Check out “Learn How to Authenticate Your Money” tips from the U.S. Currency Education Program.)
Officer Doss recommends against having strangers come to your house for a sale, but if you have an item that’s too large to transport and decide to sell out of your home, at the very least make sure you’re not alone. “I suggest at a minimum that you have another person with you at your house to just have that safety in numbers,” she says.
Just be aware that bringing strangers into your home exposes you to potential crime. A person asking to use your bathroom could open your medicine cabinet and take prescription pills. Sometimes, criminals act in tandem, distracting a homeowner while a partner burglarizes your home. Or, the visitor could unlock a window for illegal entry at a later time.
Craigslist itself has a “personal safety” section with links to other resources. Officer Doss recommends checking those resources before making any transactions with strangers.
LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO AVOID SCAMS.