Vindicated: Why it’s important to meet sellers at their house for Craigslist transactions


Tonight I just noticed this article posted on the ABC News website on “Is your Stolen Stuff on Craigslist?  Here’s What to Do”  The article has some great tips and advice on what to do if something gets stolen from you.

I wanted to focus on their advice at the end of the article.  Here are my thoughts on each one of their points.

“1. Stock photos on postings rather than actual photos.”  In general, it’s good to stay away from items without photos or with just stock photo’s.  The item might not necessarily be stolen, but often times it’s got serious cosmetic issues that would drive potential buyers away.  I’ve got to check out items without pictures before, knowing the risk, and probably 50% of the time I end up walking away.

“2. Seller wants to meet somewhere away from their residence.”  Vindicated!  Almost every article I’ve read on “Craigslist safety” recommends not going to the sellers house.  For the most part, I won’t meet people in public places, especially if it’s an electronic item.  Too many times it’s just a thief that doesn’t want you to know where they live.  There is no recourse when you meet people in public.  If you read stories of people getting mugged and robbed etc, it’s often out in public because they listened to the prevailing advice to “always meet in a public, crowded place”.  The comments at the bottom of the articles page is a great example.  They are questioning the advice of these guys who spend all their time dealing with Craigslist criminals.

“3. Poor description on the item.”  Not only a good way to recognize stolen goods, but a great way to recognize damaged goods.  In general, the less people put in the description, the less nice things they could come up with for the item.  Remember that!  Tiny description, I usually just pass over the item.

“4.  Over-eager sellers.”  You usually can’t find this out until you talk with them on the phone.  Best response?  Tell them you need to think about it and that you might call them back.  Then forget about the item.

“5. If telephone numbers are spelled out instead of using digits as a way of hiding the ads.”  This can be for a number of reasons, none of them good.  Again, in general, stay away from items with weird ads like that.  Either the item is stolen, or it’s a dealer concealing his number, or it’s a person that has other reasons for his number to not be easily searched via Craigslist.  Flag these ads 🙂


  1. I can think of more normal reasons why people would want to do a number of those things… meet away from their home for their safety or because they work in a very different market than they live in, spell out phone #’s because they’re worried about marketers, etc.

    I don’t ever list a phone # in my ads, but I’ll give it to anyone who emails me and list it when I email someone else about an item.

    I generally agree with the stock photos comment – if someone went to the trouble of finding a stock photo, why didn’t they just take one? Short descriptions though aren’t always bad – I’ve gotten some decent deals on short-description items because someone just wanted something gone and didn’t care to put the effort into a better, higher-priced listing.

    I guess this may all depend on your local CL market, too – I don’t live in an area with a really high crime rate, so I’m less worried about buying stolen stuff.

    • I agree Matt, I definitely think there are exceptions. One thought on marketers is that, at least in my local Craigslist, there are thousands of ads put up every day and most are taken back down within a day. I put my google voice # in all my ads and haven’t had a problem with my number being scraped.

      On the short descriptions, I agree and have gotten some incredible deals on short descriptions. When I’m trying to give out generalized advice though, I think it’s only going to be 1-2 items in 10 that might be worth your time in those situations. One thing I will do if I’m going to email someone with a really short description is ask them about 8 questions in a row about the item. Sometimes they respond in depth and I can tell they are a normal person that just didn’t want to spend much time on the initial ad. Most of the time though, I never hear back. So that’s another way to weed those ads out.

      Stolen items: I think what you buy is also huge. I buy a lot of appliances, and never once have I thought about the possibility of one of them being hot. GPS devices, computers, small electronics, (especially the types that kids own and steal from each other) bikes and tools. Bikes are stolen all the time here. Tools as well, though I think that’s probably gone way down since the construction market tanked and everyone hawked their tools. Many pawn shops aren’t buying anymore tools.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Have to say that I disagree on several of these points.

    On #1: Lots of people, believe it or not, have only rudimentary computer skills and can’t post pictures, or have no working camera. If you get to the item before anyone else, it may be better than the description makes it sound.

    #3: Again, some people can’t make a legible sentence to save their life, but they may have something on offer for a deal. Don’t just dismiss it.

    #5: I ALWAYS spell out part of my phone number. Seems to cut down on automated spam bots that send me texts. If I don’t do it, I get all kinds of spam immediately. I NEVER put in my phone number normally.

    List sounds too paranoid, or just trying to throw newbies off the hunt. The other points I’m cool with.

    • You are right in pointing out that there are exceptions, but they are just that. In general, not having a picture is NOT a good sign. 1/20 listings without pictures might be great, but I’m trying to prevent people from wasting their time. If someone wants to spend the time to vet all the listings with bad descriptions/no pictures etc, more power to them. I value my time more than that and my experience (close to 2k significant CL transactions) has been that in general, they are a waste of time.

      I never hide my phone number and never get spam texts etc. I’ve put my phone number in close to 2k ads and have never had a problem.

      Paranoid of what? If I was trying to throw people off the hunt I would delete the site and stop giving advice.

      Currently the best way to receive spam is by replying to ads that have no phone number, use stock images etc and in general don’t seem like a normal person from that community posted the item. If it looks weird, it is…and don’t touch it. The best technique spammers are using to get email addresses are posting items at really good prices and getting people to respond via email, then they spam you. Abnormally low priced item, with no phone number, weird picture, poor grammar and the lack of a specific location within the city are all signs that point to a spammer fishing for email addresses. I’ve been caught a number of times and have learned how to recognize even the best of their fake ads. Just trying to help.

  3. One point I absolutely disagree with is when you say not to meet in a public place. I do not want a stranger inside my house because of potential theft, even after the fact. I am an older woman and should be careful of strangers in my house. But, really?? to suggest that simply because people are following Craigslist safety tips means that merchandise may be stolen and should be avoided is crazy.

    • Deborah, I don’t encourage people, in general, to have people come inside their house at all. Front porch, in front of the garage, driveway etc. I’ve purchased close to 2k items off of Craigslist, the without fail, the sketchiest transactions are the ones done in public places. If an item is stolen, the person is most likely going to want to do the transaction away from their home or apartment. The same goes if something wrong with an electronic item, tool etc that the person is hiding. There are exceptions, of course. I’ve experienced both. So, take my advice with a grain of salt and use your discernment.

      Much also depends on what you are selling. If you are selling an Ipad in public, meet inside the police station. If you are selling a quilt, you probably have nothing to worry about. Either way, be careful and walk away from the sale if you feel uncomfortable at all. Don’t feel guilty telling someone that it’s not going to work out to meetup.

  4. As I generally sell bikes on CL I don’t have a need for anyone to come into the house. I use my garage and are there with the door open before they get there. Some folks have wanted to meet in a public place. The women want to because of safety reasons especially if they can’t bring their boyfriend or husband along. The guys want to if they live some distance away and don’t want to drive that far. I tell them on the phone if I have to bring the bike to them then they have to pay my asking price. I also try to bring a couple extra bikes with me in my van in case the one they want doesn’t fit quite right. This has worked well a couple of times in extra sales. One woman decided to buy a bike for her hubby as well.

    I get a lot of college students who’ve had their bike stolen. They don’t have a car and need it delivered. Some offer to take light-rail and meet closer to my house. Others don’t. It doesn’t make sense to drive to their place with no guarantee that there will be a sale. What I tell them is that I can stop by the next time I’m in their area whether to run an errand or if my other job takes me near them. This seems to work out. I just call them when I know I will be near them and see if they are still interested. So far, so good.

  5. I disagree with meeting at the sellers house I buy and sell dlsr, tablets, smartphones, and laptops and never have I had someone ask to meet at my house they 99% of the time ask to meet in a public place usually a fast food restaurant in the area

    • That’s because everyone says that’s the safe way to do it. It then gets repeated by people that don’t use Craigslist very often. I think it’s a cop out, a way of dodging liability just in case something bad happens. The thing is, if you read about all the bad Craigslist experiences, almost all of them are robberies in public parking lots etc. Sellers will never give out their home address and then rob someone, and buyers aren’t going to want to rob someone where they can’t control their getaway or the situation, period.

      That said, people can meet wherever, and the odds are, nothing bad will happen. If something bad does happen, it will most likely happen in a public area for the reasons I mentioned above.

  6. Great stuff! Today i had a seller unwilling to meet at his house to do a transaction over a motherboard for a computer. Since i have no way to test the motherboard until i got home i needed some security other than his cell number. It may have been weird but i asked him for his home address and told him id meet him at walmart. But even this he was unwilling to do.
    Now when you do transactions online you give people you home address for them to ship to you.
    It was about this time i realized he was a scammer

  7. I know this thread is old but…As a single mom who sells items for other people to make a little cash, I never, EVER meet at my house. Having random people come to my home and seeing what I own just doesn’t feel right. I live around the corner from a police station and high school and I meet right there. If that isn’t proof enough that my items are legit then I don’t know what is. If you don’t like my meeting place, move on to the next seller. If it’s a large item like a television, I have a male friend perform the meet at my home, but otherwise my safety comes first. Public always. Always.


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