Unfortunately, though, Craigslist is riddled with scammers. Keep your money safe by following these seven tips when using the popular online marketplace.

1. Be familiar with Craigslist

Many Craigslist scams can be avoided by knowing basic information about the site:

  • The Craigslist URL is http://www.craigslist.org. Scammers often use fake sites to lure buyers into paying for items that don’t exist. Always check the URL before making a purchase.
  • Craigslist does not back transactions on its site. If you receive an email trying to sell you purchase protection, it’s a scam. 
  • There is no such thing as a Craigslist voicemail service. If a contact asks you to access or check your “Craigslist voicemails,” you’re dealing with a scammer.

2. Deal locally.

Keeping your transaction local will enable you to finalize a sale in person. There’s also less of a chance of there being a language barrier to blur details of a deal.

3. Examine the product before finalizing a sale.

Never rely only on pictures when buying something on Craigslist. Always ask to see it in person.

4. Don’t accept or send a cashier’s check, certified check, or money order as payment.

Fraudulent checks can be impossible to fight. Also, a bad check can seem to clear on sight, prompting you to agree to the sale and then quickly use the money in your account. A few days later, though, you’ll realize the check bounced. By then, the buyer has vanished with your goods, leaving you responsible for the funds you used.

On the flip side, if you pay for an item with a money order or wire transfer, you’ll have no way of recouping your loss if the seller fails to come through with the goods.

5. Use cash—safely.

The most secure way to pay or collect funds for a Craigslist transaction is with cash. If the idea of handing over a large sum of money to a stranger scares you, make the exchange in a safe place, like your local police station or even at Box Elder Credit Union. Bring along a counterfeit detection pen to be certain you’re not getting scammed with bogus bills.

6. Don’t share your personal information.

There’s no reason a buyer or seller needs to know your checking account number, date of birth or mother’s maiden name. If a contact is asking too many personal questions, back out.

7. Create a disposable number.

You can create a cost-free, disposable number on Google Voice instead of giving out your real number on Craigslist. Your Google Voice number will be untraceable and will expire within 30 days of non-use.