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10 Steps to Avoid the Craigslist Creeper

June 16th, 2019

Who is the Craigslist Creeper you might ask? He or she is that unwanted, annoying, and obnoxious individual that contacted you while selling an item on Craigslist. Now he or she has your personal information, perhaps your home address or phone number. You were left with a bad feeling, and now you only have regrets after posting the ad on Craigslist. Or, perhaps you don't have a personal experience, but you've heard or read about others' experiences from elsewhere. Selling on Craigslist isn't complicated, but you should be cautious to protect your identity and your family. In this article, we'll look at 10 practical ways to avoid the Craigslist Creeper.


  1. Ensure personal information is removed from your item for sale. Whether selling your iPhone, or selling your digital camera, be sure to remove any and all personal information. For selling electronic devices with storage such as cell phones, laptops, tablets, cameras, etc. be sure to follow applicable procedures for erasing all data. Don’t just reset the settings, but rather ensure all your data is completely removed. If you need help properly erasing items, try searching online for tips from a reputable source. Remove any SIM card or memory card present in the device. If the device is connected to a wireless provider, call the wireless provider in advance and remove it from your account. For other items without memory or storage, ensure there are no hidden papers or belongings left behind in the item.

  2. Don't post personally identifying information in your ad. Search engines commonly crawl sites like Craigslist, so anything you post in your ad has the potential to be readily accessible via search engines, even years after you remove your ad. Avoid posting your full name, contact information, home address, email, or even pictures that contain readily identifiable information or surroundings such as license plates, house numbers, family pictures, etc.

  3. Post detailed information and pictures concerning your item for sale. While this may require a few extra minutes, you can minimize the interaction with prospective buyers simply by writing a detailed description that accurately describes the item you are selling. Where applicable include measurements, defects, specifications, model and part numbers, or other pertinent information upfront. On a side note, always be transparent and honest in describing your item to avoid misunderstandings. You don’t want to give your buyer a reason to try and track you down after selling your iPad.

  4. Use Craigslist email relay instead of posting your personal email address. Craigslist email relay will disguise your email with an alias that forwards to your real email address. The email relay is two-way, meaning it will also disguise your email when replying to inquiries sent via your alias. When receiving replies you'll always see an email address ending in @reply.craigslist.org. In most cases it is not necessary to post a phone number in your actual ad, so consider instead discreetly giving out your phone number (or an alias/forwarding number as mentioned below in #5) in response to serious inquiries received via email. And, avoid giving out your full name in email replies. If you want another layer of protection, consider signing up for a free email account that you can exclusively use for Craigslist, that features an email address with no personally identifying information associated with it.

  5. Don't give out your real phone number. Consider using a phone alias or forwarding service such as Google Voice. Google Voice gives you a free phone number that you can program to discreetly forward to your personal phone number, including text and voicemail. Google Voice also offers the ability to screen callers and restrict calling times. This way you can keep your personal phone number private, while controlling when and who calls you. You can even use Google Voice to make outgoing calls from your alias, using their smartphone app or web-based interface. 

  6. Screen buyers to gauge genuine interest levels. There are always emerging scams on Craigslist whether it is a creeper seeking to overpay you with a counterfeit cashier’s check and receive the difference in cash, or someone asking you to ship the item elsewhere and pay you in the meantime via wire transfer with your bank account number. These creepers will often email you with messages that seem overly eager to purchase your item, sometimes within hours of creating a post to sell your guitar or sell your MacBook. If you receive a message and something doesn't seem quite right, it is not necessary for you to reply. You can discreetly ignore messages to avoid wasting time or revealing any information to an unwanted party (such as an IP address of your location).

  7. Only give out your home address when absolutely necessary. If the item you are selling is easily transportable such as when selling your Surface Book laptop, consider meeting in a highly visible public place when buyers ask to purchase or look at your item for sale. Ideal meeting places include bank parking lots, large shopping centers, or even police precincts. Most of these places have parking lot security cameras in use for added peace of mind. In order to maintain control of the environment, it is best to be the one who specifies the meeting location rather than taking the suggestion of a buyer. Never meet in abandoned or low-traffic areas out of public sight. If the item you are selling is too large to transport such as when selling a Honda Generator or selling a Snap-on tool box, only give committed and interested buyers a vague city and state beforehand, and ask for them to call you when they are in transit to provide your full address. This way you minimize giving out your address unnecessarily. If possible, consider conducting the sale outside your house such as in the driveway, away from entrances to your home. If you have a doorbell camera or video surveillance outside your house, be sure to meet the buyer within its field of view so that the transaction is recorded on video. In some situations, you may consider offering delivery to the buyer's home (whether free or charging a reasonable cost) on larger items, simply to avoid giving out your address. Just be sure to collect payment prior to unloading the item. Keep in mind if at any point in corresponding with a buyer you are uncomfortable, you reserve the right to turn down the buyer, including ignoring phone calls, texts, and emails. Unwanted phone calls and texts can be blocked using a service like Google Voice, and unwanted emails can be reported to Craigslist using the email relay service discussed above in #4.

  8. Cash is king. This may seem obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me the buyers that still suggest using personal checks, cashier's checks, PayPal, or other means of payment. Never use wire transfers, or give out your bank account or any other financial information to anyone. PayPal offers great protections when items are shipped via 3rd party such as UPS or FedEx, but for local transactions, PayPal is biased toward the buyer. Furthermore, beware of spoof PayPal emails that are sent by fraudulent buyers in an attempt to get you to ship an item before receiving cleared funds. Thus, cash really is the best option whether you’re selling an iPad or selling an Apple watch. When accepting cash, be prepared with some small change on hand in case the buyer doesn't come with exact change (don’t let a buyer force you into a lower price due to not having exact change on hand). Always insist on cash only, no exceptions except in cases described herein. If the item you are selling is over $1,000, a vehicle, or over another threshold that you feel uncomfortable dealing in cash, consider completing the sale at an actual bank of your choice where you can exchange funds directly inside the bank, ideally through a certified bank check drawn by the buyer while you are present at the bank, accompanying the buyer at the teller desk. This way you can easily deposit the funds into your account afterward, and you know the certified check is legitimate since you accompanied the buyer at the teller desk. Another plus to completing larger deals inside a bank is the high level of video surveillance and security present, given it is a bank.

  9. Promptly remove for sale ads when you are finished. After selling your drone or selling your Sonos speaker it is easy to forget after to take down the ad on Craigslist. Ads will eventually expire, but no need to leave your ad visible to the public any longer than necessary. If you register for a free Craigslist account (recommended), you can easily manage your posts including editing, renewing, and deleting them.

  10. Use common sense and good judgment. Don't let your guard down! As the old adage goes, "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Don't be over eager to sell an item such that you abandon good discretion. If something seems suspicious to you, don't hesitate to report it to the appropriate party, whether Craigslist or law enforcement. Sometimes wisdom comes in numbers, so consider involving your family or friends if you have any concerns throughout the process. With careful attention and good judgment, you'll be able to get the cash you’re looking for while avoiding the Craigslist Creeper in the process.

 

If you still don't feel comfortable selling your iPhone or guitar on Craigslist, then consider using a reputable buyback service. Jay Brokers is a risk-free secondhand marketplace. We buy and sell everything from gadgets and guitars to cameras and collectibles. If it's worth over $100 in value and easy to ship, chances are we'll make a cash offer on it. Visit our website today to sell your iPhone or sell your MacBook.

 

Disclaimer: This article is provided as a general guide on an "AS IS" basis. Always consult and adhere to your local laws and governances in addition to seeking legal advice from reputable sources.