How to Keep You & Your Money Safe When Using Online Classifieds

I remember selling a stereo using the Penny Saver about 20-years ago. A man and woman visited my home, looked at the stereo, fiddled with the knobs, then gave me $40 and took it away.

It was a pleasant experience. And for the vast majority of people, selling unwanted items through classifieds such as Craigslist, eBay and Kijiji is a pleasant experience.

Sadly, there are many crooks who use these services as well to commit crimes.

Over the past few days, a man by the name of Tim Bosma has been in the news. He went missing after taking 2 men on a test drive of a vehicle Tim posted on the online classified site called kijiji.

The men went to Tim’s home, most likely after having a conversation as to when it’d be convenient to see the vehicle. Tim told his wife he’d be back in a few minutes, left his home with the 2 men and was never seen again.

Today, almost a week after Tim’s disappearance, the police announced that a charred body was found and they believe it to be the remains of Tim.

I’m saddened to hear this. Truly saddened. Tim was a family man and attended church weekly. He was a Christian and by the sounds of it, well loved by his community and church family.

He was 32. He was a father. He had a wife. And he had a mother. A law-abiding, God-fearing man killed. What a complete and utter waste. Tim had so much life to live. He did not deserve this.

Anyone can become a victim. According to reports, Tim was a big guy. He was a smart man, yet he became a victim. The question then becomes “How can you continue to use online classifieds to make money without becoming a victim of a scam?” I offer some tips.

1. Meet at a public space

Don’t meet strangers at your home. Take whatever it is you’re selling and bring it to the seller in a public location. If you’re buying something, ask the seller to meet you at a coffee shop.

2. If the item is too large to carry, meet at home when other adults are present

Ask your brothers, sisters or your next door neighbour to come to your house if you need to show the item at your home. Make sure there are able-bodied adults in the home with you.

3. Do not give any clues to your living arrangement

There may be some innocent questions such as “So, who lives with you?” There’s no need to answer. Politely tell the person that you’d prefer to focus on the item for sale.

4. Take someone with you – ALWAYS

If you have to meet the person at another location, never meet the person on your own. Take a trusted friend, family member or spouse with you.

5. Meet during the day, never at night.

The night time offers a convenient cover. You’re not able to see the product well in the cover of night. Meeting during the day is best so you can get a proper look at the

6. Be careful of offering cash

Ask if you can give a cheque, especially if you’re going to buy concert or sporting tickets. If the person says no, you’re better off going to the store and getting the item for full price.

7. Get the sellers name, email, phone and take a photo

Many times, the crook will use a throw away cellphone or set up a temporary email address to conduct the transaction. They may give a fake name. Get all the person’s info, then take a picture as well. This may prove useful should the transaction prove to be a scam and you have to report this to the police.

I offer these tips, not to pass blame to the victim, Tim. Please don’t interpret my post as such.

I offer these tips as a reminder on how to conduct personal sales through online classifieds so you stay safe. What other tips would you add to the list above?

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