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3 Ways to Increase Security with Apps Like OfferUp and Craigslist

The Internet is the ultimate market for affordable, rare or otherwise inaccessible but desirable goods. Tap or click here for five ways to get free shipping online.

As with any interaction with a stranger online, doing things without putting yourself in harm’s way is a task in itself. The problem will only get worse if it is necessary to see the other party in person.

Luckily, we have a few tips to consider. Keep reading for safety tips when using shopping apps like Craigslist and OfferUp.

1. Meet in public

Never invite a stranger into your home, even when doing business on a respectable platform like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Places like the mall, cafes, public parks, and other busy meeting places will reduce your chances of a negative (or even dangerous) encounter.

RELATED: Five common OfferUp scams to avoid

Our best advice will generally be to pay in cash, avoiding sharing personal information where possible (although in some cases services like PayPal may offer your transaction an extra layer of buyer protection under the form of insurance against fraud).

If you use a card, make it a credit card, not a debit card. Credit cards offer more protections that can help you dispute any fraudulent transactions if the worst happens.

As a buyer, we encourage you to insist on choosing a meeting place that you already know will be safe and full of people. Hold a meeting during the day, ideally in a well-lit area.

Fraudsters are unlikely to agree to a public date, so if you sense hesitation, back off slowly and work out another deal. Some scammers won’t even live in the area they’re trying to sell and trade in, so this extra step is likely to extinguish a bad situation before it happens.

Bonus points if you bring a friend. Of course there is strength in unity and you will be safer if you have someone with you.

2. Examine the seller thoroughly

A seller’s reputation isn’t always easy to determine, but marketplace platforms like OfferUp require all participants to rate their buyers or sellers as partners.

This means that every potential deal you find comes with a five-star rating or some other system. As you would when comparing prices, you should always consider seller ratings and reviews as one of the determining factors that influence the seller you choose.

If you have access to eBay-like seller reviews, read them, especially if you’re making a big purchase. Avoid anyone without catastrophic ratings or reviews, as both are red flags. They can mean that you are dealing with a real scammer or someone who is useless.

3. Minimize the information you share

The advantage that many trading platforms offer is a simple profile that doesn’t give away any of your personal information to anyone you meet.

Your full name and phone number can be used to find you elsewhere, which is why many buying and selling apps offer customers a secure chat or messaging system. That’s why it’s a good idea to stick to the official platform as your exclusive means of communication. Avoid giving your phone number to strangers.

Will this always be the case? Most of the time. However, there are exceptions. As mentioned above, using authorized apps like PayPal can offer some protection at the cost of a small amount of personal information.

Tools like Facebook Marketplace are naturally attached to your public profile. This reality is a strong lesson that urges us to be careful about what we share online in any context.

You might also like: Financial advice: 9 ways to make sure you can return the things you buy online

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