Over the past few years, I’ve posted countless number of Craigslist advertisements either to look for roommates or to sell stuff. Naturally as you do something over and over again, you learn stuff along the way. With posting advertisements on Craigslist and replying to inquiries, there are some tools and resources I learned to use for conducting business online. I found these tools to be effective measures to protect myself against scammers and my identity.
A few readers have asked me specifically what I do to protect myself or maintain a certain level of anonymity when dealing with random people calling or e-mailing in response to an advertisement I posted. I thought a post about this topic would be most appropriate to inform the public.
I strongly recommend these tools to anyone who is looking for a roommate via Craigslist or selling items on Craigslist. The tools and resources I use are all free and they are as follows:
- Google Voice – a call forwarding system offered by Google. This is probably the most valuable tool I use. Think about, if you want to talk to a potential roommate over the phone, one person will have to call the other person. For that to happen, one has to share their phone number with the other person. The problem is, do you want give out your home or mobile number? This is where Google Voice shines because it allows you to forward calls from your assigned Google Voice number to your home or mobile phone number, effectively masking your real phone number. So I have no problems giving out my Google voice number to a potential roommate or even posting my Google Voice number on a Craigslist advertisement. I find this extremely valuable in the sense that you can maintain a certain level anonymity; yet advertise your phone number freely.
- Secondary E-mail address – I have e-mail addresses at hotmail, gmail, and yahoo. Each one serves a different purpose for me. With very real possibility of spam cluttering your e-mail and the potential of my e-mail being hacked in to, I don’t give out my primary e-mail address. My strategy is to always use a secondary e-mail when I’m exchanging e-mails with interested parties to my advertisements. Most likely, these transactions are going to be one-time transactions and there’s no real reason to keep their e-mails or give them your primary e-mail addresses, which can be your login to Amazon or Facebook.
- Facebook Account – This is one of the best tools to prevent scams. There are about 750 million active users on Facebook. With that said, there’s a good chance that the person you’re dealing has a Facebook Account.
If you’ve received an inquiry regarding an advertisement you just posted on Craigslist, login with your Facebook account and search for their profile based on their e-mail address. If the search result produces a profile, it’s a legitimate person inquiring, if not, I’d be very cautious moving forward. Now, I understand not everyone in the world had a Facebook account, so a Facebook Profile may not show up.
For instance, when I posted my laptop for sale, I received a ton of e-mails from purported buyers. I’ve been able to determine if they were legitimate people or scammers by searching for the Facebook profile. If a profile didn’t show up, I simply ignored their e-mails.
Common Sense – This is really not a tool or resource, but a way of thinking. Just trusting your gut instinct can sometimes be enough to tell you not to do something. For instance, when I was selling my laptop, I was receiving offers more than I asking for. I was really feeling all giddy, but I was questioning why they couldn’t call me to talk to me about the details. That’s when I found out it was scam and ignored their e-mails.
If you’re at all hesitant about doing something, say giving out your PayPal address – don’t do it!
There is no foolproof way of protecting yourself against scams. With some tools and resources, one can significantly mitigate any risk of scams. It always seems to be a cat and mouse game between honest people and scammers. With scammers developing new schemes to scam unsuspecting people.
As I mentioned before, folks looking to sell items or promote their services on Craigslist can also use these tools and resources. It’s just not confined to people looking to rent out their spare room.
Do you know of any other tools or resources to protect against scammers?