Better Business Bureau Tips for using Craigslist

September 24, 2010

Better Business Bureau Tips for using Craigslist: Consumers urged to be cautious

September 22, 2010 – Ridgeland, MS - In the wake of another tragic death involving a transaction initiated through Craigslist, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising the public to practice caution when using the online service and others like it.

According to recent news accounts, 33-year-old Youa Lor of St. Paul, Minn. was killed after placing to a Craigslist ad to sell his car. 19-year-old Dao Xiong responded to the ad, and allegedly killed Lor, then stole his car, removed several parts from the vehicle, and ditched the car.

"Craigslist provides some great opportunities for buyers and sellers to find each other, but it can also put you at great risk, as you don't know with whom you are dealing," said Bill Moak, President of the BBB Serving Mississippi.

Recently, Mississippi consumers have reported bogus ads for rental homes and merchandise on Craigslist, prompting the BBB to warn consumers about doing business on the popular E-commerce site. In addition, a number of murders have been reported around the nation which used Craigslist to find victims, or resulted from contacts gained through Craigslist and similar sites.

Here are some basic tips from the BBB in regard to using sites like Craigslist:

  • Try to deal with local buyers and sellers.
  • Never wire funds.
  • Use caution when using an escrow service – make sure it’s reputable by checking them out at
  • Never give out your Social Security or personal financial information.
  • Don’t apply for jobs that require a payment.
  • Apartment or home rentals should be thoroughly checked out and inspected in person before money is put down.
  • Consider the risks involved with selling a high value item yourself and weigh that against any extra profit you might make. Is it worth it?

The following are red flags, signs you could be dealing with someone using Craigslist to defraud people:

  • The buyer or seller is from another country.
  • The buyer or seller will not meet with you and will only communicate via e-mail.
  • The buyer overpays and asks you to wire the extra funds back to him/her.

The riskiest part of buying or selling something through Craigslist (or other online e-commerce sites) is the meeting to complete the transaction. Here are some tips to ensure your transaction goes safely and smoothly:

  • Set up meetings during daytime hours and in a public place (coffee shop, restaurant).
  • Consider bringing a friend or family member with you if you have safety concerns.
  • If you’re the seller, consider using an escrow service.
  • If you’re buying an item, don’t pay with cash if the item is more than one hundred dollars; pay with a cashier’s check and let the seller know in advance you’re paying with a cashier’s check.
  • If the seller insists you come to their home or apartment, tell them you will only meet at a neutral public site.
  • Trust your instincts. If you don’t like the direction things are taking, walk away.

As in most all other parts of life, most of the people you deal with when buying or selling household goods on sites like Craigslist are honest. However, there are those who see these sites as an opportunity to commit crimes. The BBB advises everyone who uses websites like these to make sure they’re doing everything they can to protect themselves.

(The BBB Serving Mississippi acknowledges the work of its sister BBB, the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, in preparing this article.)