(CNN) — Craigslist reports about 80 million ads on its site each month, so even if you haven’t met a stranger to buy or sell something online, chances are you know someone who has.
The overwhelming majority of transactions go smoothly, but the site has a history of being co-opted by criminals on occasion.
A couple from Georgia was traveling to a Craigslist transaction last month when they left their suburban Atlanta home in hopes of buying a 1966 Ford Mustang. They did everything right — they went together, and they told their family they were going to the transaction.
Yet the bodies of Elrey “Bud” Runion, and his wife, June, were found January 26, police said. A South Georgia man has been charged with murder in their deaths.
In a separate incident Friday, two men in Georgia met a seller to purchase a dog. The seller drew a gun on them in an attempted robbery, but one of the buyers was carrying a handgun and fatally shot the seller, police said. The investigation is ongoing.
The recent incidents should remind those engaged in this type of online commerce that it pays to be vigilant. So what can you do to make sure you don’t fall prey to ne’er-do-wells next time you respond to an online ad?
Philip Holloway is a law enforcement adviser and defense attorney with some tips on things you should remember when buying and selling goods online:
10. Don’t reveal personal information
Remember this is a business transaction, so never reveal Social Security numbers, home or business addresses or banking information.
9. Keep your cell phone close
Have a cell phone in your hand during the entire transaction and be ready to call 911 at the first sign of trouble.
8. Don’t use your personal email
Use an anonymous email address to communicate with the buyer or seller.
7. Disable caller ID
Disable caller ID when calling the buyer or seller on the phone. Most cell phone and landline carriers offer this by dialing *67 before making the outgoing call.
6. Don’t pay in cash
Do not accept cash and do not offer to pay in cash. Use a cashier’s check instead and make it a non-negotiable term of the transaction.
5. If it’s a high-priced transaction, do it at a bank
The higher the price of the item involved, the higher the risk of the transaction. Conduct these transactions at a banking facility so a banking professional can confirm the funds have been delivered successfully.
4. Always meet during the day
Never conduct your transactions at night.
3. Never meet at home
Find a neutral site to meet — never at your or someone else’s home.
2. Tell someone
Tell a trusted friend or family member what you’re doing and have another trusted friend or family member accompany you to the transaction.
1. Always meet in a public place
Most police departments will be happy to accommodate you, and they are open 24/7.