Buyer beware – Top 6 dangers of buying off Craigslist

There are some great finds on Craigslist, and increasingly there are buy-sell-trade groups on Facebook and other social networks where you can get some great bargains on used merchandise. But there are many potential pitfalls to buying second-hand. Consider the following when making your purchasing decisions:

1. Recalled items
Many sellers unknowingly sell recalled products online. None pose greater risks than items originally intended to protect children, and instead can end up harming them.

Check the model number of a used car seat to see if it is recalled. Car seats also have expiration dates, so confirm the manufacture date with the seller. If unsure, pass on the item.

Cribs are another common danger. Drop-side cribs were once common place. Many deaths were connected to this feature, and it since has been banned. Also, check the distance between rungs. It must be no more than 2 inches.

2. Furniture
Sellers may promote their furniture as being “solid wood,” when in fact the item is merely particle board covered with a veneer. Veneer is not necessarily a bad thing, but don’t pay a premium price for mislabeled features. Make sure that any veneer adheres to the particle board without flaking off. Also check for wobbly legs and loose-fitting joints.

Look for furniture from a smoke-free and pet-free home. Odors from smoke and pet urine are nearly impossible to remove. And pass up that cheap mattress. Need we point out the obvious — bed bugs and bodily fluids?

3. Computers and cellphones
Electronics, in general, can sustain damage that is unseen to the buyer. There’s often no way to know if a laptop has been dropped or spilled on, or has had a virus. Operating systems quickly are outdated as well.

Cellphones often are more abused than computers, so beware. Also, in most cases you must have the same carrier as the seller to activate any cellphone service. Unless you’re a tech geek, avoid purchasing used electronics.

4. Vehicles
Vehicles are a big ticket item and many successfully purchase them online. But if the price is way below market, it’s likely a scam. Be cautious when the seller and vehicle are in different locations, or if a seller pushes for quick payment to be wired to them. Order a CARFAX report, and make sure the vehicle identification number (VIN) matches with the number on the paperwork.

5. Buzz words
Many sellers believe that by simply adding the word “vintage” or “antique” to the description of their unwanted collection of VCR tapes, that they can charge a premium price. Old is old. Check comparable pricing on other sites for the item you are interested in.

6. Meeting location
When at all possible, meet at a public place like a gas station or coffee shop. Many of these locations also have ATMs so you can easily withdraw money to pay for your transaction without having to carry large amounts of cash with you. Meeting publicly may not be realistic for viewing larger items like appliances or furniture. In this case, bring a friend and let others know when and where you are going.

Bottom line? If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Follow common-sense practices that will save you money in the long run, and never put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. No bargain is worth compromising your safety.