Tips to Buying and Selling In the Digital Marketplace

unnamedI remember as a kid, any time my parents had something to sell they’d post classifieds in the local paper. It cost money, they were limited to how many words they could post, and pictures weren’t allowed (or they were for an additional fee). Now with Craigslist and Facebook it’s much easier to buy and sell items. It’s free to post and include pictures, and both platforms have a wider reach.

unnamedI’ve used Craigslist and and some local Facebook groups to buy and sell many things. Last summer, both platforms were invaluable prior to a move when we needed to get rid of things that were not making the trek with us, and purchase some goodies to spruce up the new place. However, just as most activities that involve the exchange of items for money, there are risks in using the internet. Here are some tips to make buying and selling online successful (hopefully) and safe:

  1. If possible, arrange for a meeting to be in a public place. Public parking lots, cafés, and the outside of high visibility stores. Obviously if you’re buying or selling a huge item like a couch, this isn’t a very practical idea. In that case, have somebody (or a few people) with you so you aren’t alone and vulnerable. If you live in an apartment, arrange to meet the person outside, that way if you begin to feel uncomfortable, it’s easier to ask the person to leave and retreat into the safety of your home. It’s very unlikely this would happen, but it never hurts to be extra cautious.
  2. Be very careful what information you post in your ad. I never put my phone number or address in an ad, and if I share an email – it is a temporary email account only used for this one purpose.  Craigslist allows you the opportunity to “mask” your contact information for initial correspondence.  When a contact seems serious and things are proceeding, then I’ll give the necessary information, but only my cell phone number since that can’t be traced to my address. I’ve read that using Google Voice is a good alternative to cell phones or home phones. It creates more privacy and gives you the option of blocking a person if you become uncomfortable.
  3. Cash only! Do not accept checks, credit or debit card payments. Cash is the only way to guarantee you’re getting the money owed. In the event cash isn’t an option, such as selling a car for thousands of dollars, a cashier’s check is another safe option, or PayPal.
  4. Watch out for scams. It isn’t unusual to get scam emails, especially when the product is in high demand.  If the initial inquiry is vague and doesn’t say anything specific about the item, you should have your guard up! If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is…. If the offer is more than the asking price and/or offers to cover shipping, the deal is unlikely to come from a legit buyer, so proceed with caution.
  5. Trust your instincts. If at any point you feel unsafe or unsure, back out right away. It’s better to lose a sale, than risk your safety or personal property.

Common sense is your best ally. I love a good deal just as much as anybody else, but it’s vitally important to use caution and take steps to ensure you don’t get ripped off, or put yourself in real danger.

Laura Sperber
Project Manager

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