Buying on Craigslist

Funny sign: Tripping Hazard

Image by jcolman via Flickr

On Friday, I talked about selling safely on Craigslist.  Today, I’m going to talk about buying safely and getting a good deal.

I love Craiglist.  It’s safe to say I’m a fan. We’ve refurnished most of our house for 10-15% of retail by being patient and persistent there.   We scored a $1200 oak entertainment center for $200, a beautiful oak headboard/storage thingy for $150, a nice china cabinet for $70 and much, much more.   There are a lot of deals to be had, but you have to be careful.

I never buy anything without either a picture or a model number. Stock photos do not count.  I want to see an actual picture of the actual item.   With electronics, I want the model number so I can tell exactly what features it has.    If I can’t positively identify the item, the seller gets an email.  If I don’t know what it is, I’m not interested.

Once I have the item identified, it’s time to hit Amazon and Google for a quick price check.   Acceptable prices vary, but I’m generally looking for 25% of retail for items that aren’t collectible or antique.

While it’s not a common occurrence for the things I buy, some sellers do lie. The technical term for this is “fraud”.   Fraudulent sellers needs to be kicked in the shins.   Before I go to actually see an item, I do enough research that I will hopefully be able to pick out a fraud or forgery.   The easiest way to tell if the backstory is a lie?  If you are given a backstory, it’s probably a lie.  Never assume that the seller is telling the truth about the little old lady who only drove her TiVo to church on Thursdays in the summer and never went above channel 10.  The story is always a lie. Check the condition yourself.  Check the value yourself.   If you can’t verify it, it isn’t true.

If you are buying tickets or documents, know what you are looking for to tell if it is a forgery.  If you can’t tell, ask the seller to meet with someone you trust who can verify it.   Ticketmaster tickets are laminated, so they glare slightly in the light. If you hold the tickets up to a strong light, the white parts will glow blue.    Finally, if the ticket looks like it was printed at home, don’t trust it.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="196" caption=" "] [/caption]A few months ago, a local couple was trying to buy a car on Craigslist.   When they met the buyer, he took their cash and their car and left them on the sidewalk in an unfamiliar neighborhood.    The moral of the story?   Ride the bus. That, and always meet in a public, well-traveled spot.

If the seller suggest escrow, he’s probably actually the deposed ruler of Nigeria in need of someone to help him get his fortune safely out of the country.  You should immediately give him your name, address, social security number, PIN, place of business, all of your bank accounts, and the kidneys of your first-born.  He’ll hook you up. Really.

Don’t do that.   On the internet, escrow=fraud, almost every time.

Rental fraud is an issue I have absolutely no experience with, but it’s common in places with a competitive housing market.  The felonious candidates for extremely prejudiced termination will scan the real estate listings, and post some on Craigslist as a rental unit with a low-ball price.   People get excited for the extreme deal, shut off their critical thinking skills, and hand their nest-egg over to someone they’ve never met so they can keep the scam from being snatched up by some sucker who’s just a little bit slower at dumping his wallet into a crowded room on con-artists.   It’s a big decision, so take the time to research it and do it right. Find the ownership records and the owner.   If you’re buying, get an actual realtor to help you.  They are worth the money.

Tips for Buying Safely on Craigslist

Don’t wire money. Ever.   If someone suggests that for an internet sale, ask for their address and send a leg-breaker their way.  They are trying to steal from you.

Trust your gut.  If something smells fishy, it probably is.  Walk away.

Don’t ever give out personal information.  Nevernevernever.  Not your address, not your favorite flavor of chewing-cud, nothing.   Keep it private.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="196" caption=" "] [/caption]

Meet in a public place.  Criminals tend to dislike witnesses, so go somewhere that has them by the score.

Bring a friend. I may be a bit of a chauvinist or over-protective, but my wife doesn’t bring money to go meet strangers on the internet without me.  If your local laws allow it, consider bringing some form of protection with you.

Craigslist can save you a ton of money, but it brings some risk with it.   Keep yourself safe.

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Yakezie Carnival: The 93 Edition

93 (number)

Image via Wikipedia

Welcome to the Yakezie Carnival.  The Yakezie is a group of the best personal finance blogs on the internet.  In short, we rock.  Joining the Yakezie is a 6 month challenge involving Alexa ranking and cross-promotion.

These are posts submitted by Yakezie members.  Please note, this is the 93 Edition, not the 93rd Edition.

Today is April 3rd, the 93rd day of the year.

93 is a Blum integer.  For those of you who don’t know, a Blum integer is, to quote Wikipedia, a natural number n if n = p×q is a semiprime for which p and q are distinct prime numbers congruent to 3 mod 4.  Now you know as much as you did before.   If you understand that definition, you probably already knew what a Blum integer was.   To me, this means a Blum integer is a number that has a definition that I have to copy and paste to even repeat coherently.  It exists solely to make math geeks feel smart.  I am not a math geek.

On to the carnival!

KrantCents brings us Cash or Credit, a post about the choice between using cash or credit for purchases.  We’ve wrestled with this one before.  A few months ago, we basically abandoned the cash-only system as inconvenient and too easy to ignore.  Right now, we are transitioning to a travel rewards card for all of our regular purchases.   I’m going to see how much of my trip to the Financial Blogger Conference I can get for free.

Using thelemic isopsephy, a form of numerology promoted by Aleister Crowley, Will + Love = 93.   Crowley once said something to the effect of “Never lie.  Just live the kind of life no one will believe.”  I love that quote, but I can’t remember where I read it.

Dr. Dean presents 5 Tips Plus A Bonus On Saving Money: Today! and says “Dr Dean’s patients are telling him their costs are rising, despite the feds promise that inflation is under control.  5 tips to save a little money, now (with a fun bonus!)”  As a father of 3, the bonus tip needs to be rethought.   Long-term costs….

On February 8th, 1993, GM sued NBC for faking crashes that show GM trucks catching fire in car accidents.  First, if Hollywood has taught me anything, it’s that cars catch fire in every accident, no matter how minor.  Second, where’s Toyota’s lawsuit, now?

Jacob at My Personal Finance Journey bring us Are Extended Auto Warranties A Scam? and says “A look at the considerations that should go in to deciding whether or not extended warranties are worth their weight in gold.”  I want to call extended auto warranties a scam, but I can’t.  When I bought my car, I got the warranty and paid a couple of thousand dollars for it(I don’t remember exactly how much!).  For years, it was worthless, but shortly before the warranty expired, I had a couple of problems that needed to be fixed, so I brought it in and asked for a complete inspection to go with the repair.  All told, I got close to $5,000 in repairs for that $2,000 warranty and my car drives like new at 7 years old.

On May 10th, 1893, the United States Supreme Court officially declared the tomato to be a vegetable, proving once again that, not only will the government stick its nose into absolutely anything, but it doesn’t feel a need to base its decisions on facts or science.   Remember that when you hear any government declaration regarding scientific facts or advances.

Money Reasons bring us Are We All COGs in the Machine Of Life? and says “Break away from the business machine that is using you as a COG spinning doing the owner’s bidding.  Why just spin in circles wasting life away?  Start your own business or develop some life fulfilling hobbies!”  I love the idea of breaking out and doing what you love, whether or not it makes you any money.  Life’s too short to hate everything about it.

In Q1, 1793, France declared war on Great Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands.   Now, they make whine, pastries, and self-righteous politicians.   The Earth is also 93 million miles from the sun.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Evan at My Journey to Millions offers up Important Dates When Investing in Dividend Producing Stocks and says “When you are dealing with dividend paying stocks there are dates whose definitions can be considered a term of art and you should know about including declaration date, ex-dividend date, record date and payment date.”  I get lost when dealing with most investments.  That’s mostly because, at this point in my financial journey, I don’t care.  I’m still working on paying my way out of debt.  I’ll worry about the investments later.

93 is located at the 42nd digit of pi.  That is obviously significant.  I should team up with Thelema to invent some mystical reason to take a paid holiday tomorrow to celebrate the works of Douglas Adams.

Melissa at Mom’s Plan presents How to Accomplish Your Goals Part Two:  Write Down a Step-by-Step Timeline and says “Writing down the goal is only one step of the process; directing yourself as to how you will complete the process is just as important.”  Having goals turns life into a game.  Games are fun, so goals are good.

By contentment, the acquisition of extreme happiness. – 93rd Aphroism Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

Darwin’s Money brings us Life Settlement Investment – Scam or Legit? and says “Life Settlement Investments – Profiting from Death? Scam? Or legitimate high yield alternative investment?  Find out for yourself with the facts here.”  Life settlement funds appeal to me in a totally morbid, Running Man kind of way.  It’s less disturbing that Treadmill to Bucks.

Finally, 93 is the number of the flight that successfully fought back on 9/11.  Never forget.

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