It's a common scenario: you've upgraded to a new flat screen TV and need to find a way to get rid of your old one. So you simply post a picture to Craigslist, provide your email address, and choose the person who makes the best offer. Soon, you're giving a complete stranger your address and letting him enter your home to take the TV. Although most transactions go off without a hitch, using Craigslist exposes you to the possibility of theft, assault, or worse.
Dangers of Using Craigslist Without a Background Check
Perhaps the best-known example of the dangers of online personal ads is the story of the so-called "Craigslist Killer." In 2009, Philip Markoff allegedly targeted women through ads placed on Craigslist. Two were robbed at gunpoint, while one was robbed and then murdered. The story made many people think twice about the dangers of using Craigslist without any prior knowledge of who they're interacting with.
How to Protect Yourself with Background Checks
Using Craigslist isn't inherently dangerous if you take appropriate precautions. Before meeting anyone to exchange goods or services, request their full name. Use this information to perform a background check on the person. If they don't want to give you their name, move on to the next potential buyer.
When examining the background check, look for several key signs of potential trouble. An arrest record including violent charges such as assault, battery, theft, disorderly conduct, or sexual assault is a clear sign that you should avoid meeting up with a person. Other crimes, such as fraud, financial crimes, or similar charges may also be suspicious.
After reviewing the person's background check, decide whether you're comfortable letting him or her into your home. If the item you're selling is relatively portable, consider meeting up at a public place such as Starbucks or a local library. Never accept a cashier's check or personal check, which are signs of potential scams.
Doing your due diligence is a must when making transactions on Craigslist. A few minutes of your time can keep you safe and avoid major complications from a Craigslist encounter.