An online marketplace like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace is a website or app that lets people shop, pay for, and receive items that others have at their homes or businesses. On open platforms like these, a safe marketplace transaction is not a guarantee. It’s up to buyers and sellers to use safe practices and ensure their business activities are legitimate. Take note of the following online marketplace meeting safety best practices.
1. Check the Buyer’s or Seller’s Profile
Most online marketplaces allow buyers and sellers to set up profiles that others can view to look at their history of business activities on the platform. Sellers who advertise items continuously and have completed numerous sales are generally more trustworthy. Some apps or websites allow users to rate their experiences with other users, which incentivizes legitimate activity. If a buyer has no history of purchases or a seller has no history of sales, you might not want to be the first person to do business with them.
2. Discuss the Final Price and Know What You’re Getting
Before setting up a time and place to meet, both parties should be clear on the details of the exchange. To avoid a situation where the buyer only wants to trade a portion of the money decided on, make sure you over-communicate to confirm the price.
Do a reverse image search on the person’s profile picture using Google Images. If the image brings up results for another name, you know the person is not being truthful about their identity and is most likely running a scam.
As a buyer, you want to ensure you’re on the receiving end of everything you bargained for. An example is an electric device—verify the charger comes with it and works when tested in an outlet. Ask to see the item on video showing all its parts to confirm the offer is real. And if it’s an electronic product, ask the seller to show it turned on in the video and to demonstrate its functions as well.
3. Agree on a Safe Time to Meet or a Safe Way to Make the Exchange
Agree on a specific time to meet up with the buyer or seller and ensure that it’s during daylight, such as mid-morning or the afternoon. Don’t choose a time when it’ll be dark or when other people won’t be around.
If you’d like the purchase shipped to your home, you can use a third-party platform such as PayPal to facilitate secure, protected transactions. As a seller, don’t mail an item until after you’ve received payment. Using Facebook, you have a purchase protection program that only applies to purchases where the buyer and seller don’t make the exchange in person.
4. Meet in a Public Place
One of the most crucial tips for marketplace meeting safety is to always meet in a public location where there are plenty of people around. It should be a well-lit area and preferably a place of business, such as a coffee shop or a mall. Make sure the seller or buyer is in fact in your area. You should be able to set the location and radius in the marketplace settings.
If someone tries to convince you they’ll come from out of state or more than 60 miles away, it could be a scam. If it’s an exchange for a particularly high-ticket item, consider making the exchange in the police department lobby. Send the other person a text when you’re on your way to confirm.
5. Don’t Go It Alone
Whether you’re the buyer or the seller in an online marketplace transaction, it’s always safer to go to the in-person marketplace meeting with someone you can count on, such as a friend or family member. This makes you less vulnerable. If there’s no one who can go with you, be sure to inform someone you trust where you’re going before you arrive at the meetup location.
6. Never Disclose Personal Data
Some platforms protect your identity, but others are simple listing sites where exposing your sensitive information becomes a risk. Be sure to provide only the minimum you need to share for the transaction. Since you’re meeting in a public place, there’s no need to share your address. If you communicate using an app like Facebook Messenger, you don’t need to share your phone number when making the transaction happen. Besides your name and potentially your phone number, there isn’t any other information required for the in-person exchange.
7. Check Your Item (or Count the Money)
When you meet with the buyer and provide the item they’re purchasing, make sure to count the money you collect from them. Do this before walking away, while the other person is still with you. This way, if there’s any error, you can dispute it immediately.
If you’re the buyer, examine the item before ending the meeting. Double-check that all parts that should be included are there. Test the product, if necessary, to see if it’s in working condition—do this at the time of the purchase.
8. Choose a Marketplace That Processes Payments
Safe marketplace payment requires third-party involvement. Apps like PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App allow individuals to send payments privately, but they don’t provide protection. When a payment processes within the marketplace, any fraud that occurs in which a seller doesn’t receive payment or the buyer didn’t get the correct item, can be resolved and set right. This discourages scammers from using these marketplaces in the first place, which can provide you with some peace of mind and safety with the marketplace payment process.
Tips to Stay Safe During Marketplace Transaction Meetups
Virtually anyone can access online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, including criminals posing as everyday sellers or buyers. To avoid scams or unsafe situations, make sure you meet online sellers or buyers in person at a public place during the daylight hours and bring a friend or family member with you if you can.
It’s also important to use a marketplace platform you trust that provides a preview of the buyer or seller so you can review their details before doing business with them. Confirming terms beforehand and verifying everything is correct at the time of the meetup are also key practices for a successful and safe transaction with a stranger. Of course, if ever the situation doesn’t feel right, you can walk away from the transaction and decline to do business.