If you need to sell a sofa, find a freelance gig or rent an apartment, online classified communities like Craigslist provide an open platform to do it. While these sites have their benefits, they can also provide the pieces of data identity thieves need to orchestrate fraud. Whether they attract you with scams that are too good to be true or weasel information through coercion, online listing sites are rich targets for consumers’ personal information.
Here are a few ways to play it safe when dealing with strangers buying, selling or listing something that catches your eye.
Don’t give out your phone number. Sellers and buyers alike have the opportunity to share their contact details on Craigslist. As a seller, never publicly publish your phone number in the original listing. As a buyer, iron out whatever details you can via email (preferably not your primary personal address). This includes arranging a time to meet in person (in a public, neutral place) to make the transaction. Scrub your email signature of identifying details like where you live or work.
Beware of obvious scams. Simple transactions should not be overly complicated. You never need your Social Security Number to buy a used lamp. You shouldn’t need to pay a fee to apply for a legitimate job. Listings with bizarre or unnecessary demands are posted, at best, by an unreasonable seller. At worst, the “seller” is out to commit identity theft. Either way, this isn’t someone you want to do business with, or to allow access to your personal information.
Use cash to pay for goods. If sellers had a legitimate, secure credit card processing system in place, they probably wouldn’t be flipping their wares on Craigslist. Never give out your credit card information, or agree to transfer funds through your online banking platform. Similarly, don’t write paper checks because those include your full checking account number and routing code. When it comes to buying items for a steal on Craigslist, cash is king.
Find other ways to trade. If you’re looking for a job, focus on credible, respected listing sites. If you need to sell some personal belongings, have a yard sale. Sometimes the expediency of doing business through Craigslist isn’t worth the risk you assume.
The internet provides consumers with a multitude of ways to shop, sell, search for jobs, rent apartments and perform other tasks. Making use of those resources requires individuals to be careful about how they interact with strangers online. Trusting the wrong faceless user on can lead to long-term consequences like damaged credit, lost savings and more. Following these tips, using common sense and remaining suspicious about a buyer or seller’s intentions can protect you and your family from harm.
At Identity Guard, our solutions can help protect you from the damage and destruction identity thieves leave in their paths. Contact us today to learn more about credit monitoring and other ways to address the risk and consequences of compromised identity.