Steve Rose: Use Caution When Buying/ Selling on Craigslist

iPhones are hot items both in the stores and on the street. Know the pitfalls of selling on the Internet sites like Craigslist. A little knowledge can keep you from being ripped off.


Last week a man reported he was robbed by two guys who wanted two iPhones that he had on him. This was minutes after he had a potential "buyer" that, according to him, gave him a bad feeling.

He was selling two iPhones on Craigslit and met a woman at a local restaurant who wanted to buy them. They met in his car and he began to suspect that she was not on the up and up because of the way she was acting. Two men showed up next to his car and he told the woman and the men to leave or he would call the cops. They left.

A short time later, about 10:30 pm, as he was getting out of his car at the hotel he was staying at, two men approached him and pulled guns. They took some cash and the two iPhones. It was the same two he saw earlier.

This victim made a series of mistakes that led to this robbery. Craigslist is a popular buy and sell website that deals in everything from two-dollar hammers to escorts. By selling, you are putting your items out there for anyone to respond.

iPhones, especially the iPhone 5, are top on the list of things that thieves want. Craigslist is a good way to draw the victim in for a setup.

If you are selling on Craigslist or any other website or even the good ol' want ads, you need to consider the following:

Realize that you are inheriting a degree of risk. Knowing that will hopefully give you a mindset so that you will want to take some precautions that will lower that risk.

First, when selling an item, let's say an iPhone, you provide the requirements for the sale. You should only make the sale in a public place like coffee shop or some other place where there are other people around who would witness anything that went wrong.

Second, the time of the sale should be daytime. Noon is always a good one since you can utilize your lunchtime.

Third, cash is mandatory. Don't take a check on an item that is walking out the door at the end of the sale. If you are selling a boat or something that will run into the thousands of dollars, you might end up taking a check. I would require a cashier's check. If you take a personal check, don't release the item until the check clears. Go to the bank it is written on and verify the funds immediately. Buyers who are on the up and up understand this. Those wanting a quick exit and who don't want to wait on this process may not be legit.

If you are selling a items for let's say, $300-$500, go to the office supply store and get one of those twenty dollar and one-hundred dollar markers to verify the money isn't counterfeit. We see counterfeit one-hundred dollar thefts frequently. Nothng wrong in being prepared. Do some simple homework and know how to recognize a counterfeit bill. 

Put these requirements out there when you're on the phone or e-mail with the prospective buyer. They are looking for the path of least resistance.

Let's Review

  • Never make a transaction for sellable item in an isolated area.
  • Never make the sale at night but rather during a business or otherwise time of day where you can be in a public area.
  • Don't let your item leave when you have an unverified check in your hand. Make sure that check clears.
  • Know what constitutes a counterfeit bill.

What About When You Are Purchasing?

I have seen some phony iPhones sold. The outside of the phone looks real and it comes in the iPhone case but it has only junk if anything inside. Crank it up at the time you are looking at it and see that it works. Make the seller go through a couple of functions, including Internet access on the phone.

Is the phone stolen? You really don't have a way to determine this at the point of sale but you can provide the serial numbers to your local police agency to see if it is. Normally, when the phone is reported stolen, it is inactivated meaning you should require the seller to put the phone through some functions.

Bottom Line

Do your homework. Don't be someone else's fool. You may have other things that you might want to do to insure that you do everything you can to keep from getting ripped off but doing the above will put you in the small category of those who prepare. Remember: Bad guys are looking for an easy target and there are plenty of them out there. If you set the ground rules, chances are that you'll make the sale without incident.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dr Steven Saul February 05, 2013 at 07:25 PM


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