Help for Buying on CraigsList – Tips for Great Finds, Tricks to Avoid Scams

We have found Craig’s List to be a great source for finding much wanted items at prices way below retail. I’ve heard many people say that they couldn’t fathom shopping for things there. They wonder how the transaction occurs. Is it safe? And most of all: how do you know you aren’t being scammed?

First, let me convince you that it is a worthwhile place to find goodies. In the last six months we have purchased 3 things that would have cost us more than 4 grand retail but we paid less than $1,000 for all three. We made a list of things we wanted and what we were willing to spend. We decided on the budget based on the current selling prices of similar used items on various sites. We saved up the money and then we looked on Craig’s List to see what was available. If the items we were looking for wasn’t available then we did a search for it and subscribed to the RSS feed for that search so that we could be the first to know when a similar item was listed.

Some of the items that we recently purchased were a like new Macbook Pro, a set of Ashley multi-color stone top coffee and side tables, and a like new Nikon D3100. All of them are what I consider to be great finds!

Some tips for buying off of Craig’s List:

  1. Shop in your area. Craig’s List allows you to do searches specifically in your metropolitan area. Do not buy from anyone who wants to mail you the item. If you can’t see it in person first then don’t pay for it. I’ll cover this further down but I had to make it rule number one. Don’t do it. Shop locally.
  2. Always read the ad completely. Do a search for reviews on that particular item to see if there is any problem that multiple buyers have experienced. If so, question the seller as to whether or not the item they are selling has had similar problems. You want to be sure you are buying a good item.
  3. Negotiate a lower price. I always ask the seller if they will take less for an item if it is listed for more than I am comfortable paying or if it is an older listing. I do not ask for a lower price if the seller is already offering a good deal. I have only been turned down once when asking for a lower price and honestly, the item was worth much more than I offered and I ended up buying it anyway. Do this by email or phone. It is rude to show up to make the purchase and then offer less. The exception to this would be that you deem the item to be worth less once you see it.
  4. Be prepared to pick up that day and bring cash. Sellers want to get rid of things fast. Most of them list on Craig’s List at such a low price because they either need the money now or want the item out of the way now. Don’t ask the seller to hold it for you for a week. Also, do not ask the seller to take any form of money other than cash. There are too many scammers out there nowadays.
  5. Meet in a public place. Unless the item you are picking up is too large to haul to a public place (furniture, etc) then always ask the seller to meet you somewhere public. Always let someone know where you will be, what the sellers name is, the kind of car they will be driving, and call someone as soon as you meet up with the person. This ensures your safety. Another trick we use is to look up the person on social networking sites. You can do this by using their email in the search.  If you have to go to the persons home take someone with you and let others know where you will be and call when you do get there.
  6. Examine the item carefully. The last thing you want is to pay good money for something and it be worthless after it is all said and done. If it is electronics then test it before you buy. Make sure you meet up somewhere like Starbucks so that you can try it out. Look the item over top to bottom. Don’t be afraid to back out of the transaction if you don’t like what you see.
  7. Make the purchase. Once you have decided that you like the item the only thing left to do is pay for it and bring it home for your enjoyment.

In reference to scammers we actually have come across some. They listed an item in our area. It was a Macbook Pro. When we inquired about it the lady replied back with an email saying she was about to remove it from that listing because she had put it there by mistake. She said that she was not from Baton Rouge but was actually from Maine. She added that she would still sell it to us if we wanted it and that her bank had a way of “holding” funds from us until we received the item and decided we wanted it.

I was suspicious from the start so Ryan played along to see if the lady really was a scammer. Ryan asked to talk to her by phone. When she called she told Ryan that she was so “silly” for clicking the wrong city from the drop down menu (she also mentions this in the email but Craig’s List does not have a drop down menu for choosing the city). She also told him she felt bad so she wanted to make the transaction work. She had called her bank and found that she could do a Green Dot Money Pak transaction where we would load a card for her and hold the number until we received the item. This whole set up is a scam. We found articles here: Green Dot Scammers and here: Green Dot Alert.

I also did a search using the exact title of the listing we responded to. It was “Macbook Pro 17 inch (2009 unibody model) $800” and I found several listings with the exact same wording listed in different cities across the country. She didn’t even bother to change up the description inside. It was all the same. She was definitely a scam artist. Here is a screen shot.


Here is a screen shot of the email correspondence. I left her email address in case she ever tries to use it again. She uses the name Megan Hanson and the email I’m sure she has moved on to other identities but at least you have the info to tell whether or not the item you are considering is from a scammer. Never use any other form of payment but cash and don’t pay for anything until you have it in front of you. Don’t buy from out of state no matter what they tell you. It is better to be safe than scammed.


Even with the craziness that we experienced with the scammer our overall experience with Craig’s List is very positive. We found a better deal for a Macbook Pro the next day and it was local (I love my Mac). We haven’t paid full price for a high ticket item in almost two years and most sellers are very nice people who are legitimately selling items they no longer want or need. I’m still on the lookout for a sewing machine. Maybe some sewing lessons too. 🙂

In a future post I’ll talk about selling items on Craig’s List.


  1. that person scamed me out of 800 dollars and im not even sure if they have ever caught her. sh e got me with a money gram she sounded very ledgit. i made a poliece report but they got nothing 🙁

    • Hi Noel,
      I got scammed by the same person. Please contact me if you were able to find them.

      • amybayliss says:

        I’m so sorry to hear that you guys were scammed by this woman. I hope they catch her. What she is doing is so wrong. I do searches for stuff every time I’m on Craig’s List and if I see something that looks like hers (or anything fishy for that matter) I always report it. I really do hope they get her for you, guys.


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