What is Craigslist?
With over 700 local sites in 70 countries, Craigslist is one of the Internet's most extensive global classified markets. It's the Internet's seventh most-visited English-language site (it also publishes in French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish), and users post 50 million new classified ads on it each month.
Not bad for a hobby project started by San Francisco software engineer Craig Newmark in 1995. The original Craigslist was a humble list of local events that Newmark e-mailed to friends and colleagues. Today, Craigslist garners a whopping 20 billion page views per month across its global sites.
Craigslist's popularity makes it a natural resource if you're looking to post or search classified ads. It doesn't handle any financial transactions, but simply helps interested parties find one another. Its popularity gives it enormous range and because it's online, you can update your listings in real time so you're not fielding inquiries long after you've sold that old coffee table.
Here's everything you need to know to use Craigslist safely.
How Craigslist works
The fastest way to find your local Craigslist is to Google "Craigslist" and your city name. This will bring up your local city site, or that of the closest city to you.
For example, if you search for 'Craigslist Halifax' you'll be directed to Craigslist Halifax, while if you type in 'Craigslist Bobcaygeon' you'll be directed to the site for Craigslist Peterborough, which includes the smaller city of Bobcaygeon.
If you're unfamiliar with the Craigslist look and feel, you may be surprised by how basic it is. But everything you need is there if you look carefully through all that little blue print.
To browse ads, just find the appropriate subject heading and dive in. Ads will include contact info so you can get in touch with the seller.
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To post your own free ad, just click on the "Post to Classifieds" heading and you'll be walked through a super-easy posting process – you don't even have to sign up as a member. For best results, include specific details about the service/event you are promoting or the item you are selling (attach a photo if you can).
Safe surfing on Craigslist
As with any online marketplace or meeting place, exercise your due diligence, both as a shopper and a seller. Protect yourself from scams – and personal harm.
Avoiding scam artists - Craigslist has had its share of scammers. Check online for the latest updates as reported by Craigslist at www.craigslist.org/about/scams.
The number one scam-busting tip according to Craigslist? "Deal locally with folks you can meet in person – follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99 per cent of the scams on Craigslist."
Conduct all transactions in cash. Never wire funds when buying. When selling, never accept payment via cashier checks or money orders, both of which can be easily counterfeited.
Ensure your personal safety - When posting an ad, don't list your phone number. Click on the 'Anonymize' setting after entering your e-mail address. This will scramble your e-mail address so that Craigslist replies will be forwarded to your Inbox – but the senders won't actually know what your e-mail address is.
Always meet Craigslist contacts in a public place like a local café or library. Tell a friend where you're going and bring your cell phone.
If you must host a potential buyer in your own home or garage (as when selling furniture or appliances), make sure you're not alone. Always have another adult present. The same goes for buying a piece at someone else's home: always, always bring a friend.
Finally, trust your instinct: if something feels 'off' whether it's a person or an e-mail correspondence, cut off contact immediately.
The bottom line
Craigslist is an enormously useful online market, and no more (or less) dangerous than anywhere else online. Follow common sense safety and anti-scam procedures for successful interactions.
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