Posting Your Ad

Be descriptive, use photos.

Describe your item as accurately as possible so potential buyers don't become irritated if the item is not as expected. Include photos to give an idea of the appearance and condition of the item.

Limit personal information.

When posting your classified ad, use an email address that does not personally identify you (for example use a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo email rather than a work or home email). If you use a phone number, use your cell number instead of your home phone. Be direct and respond to potential buyers, answering questions and also finding out any information that may help inform the person to whom you are selling or renting.

Responding to Initial Contact

Answer questions.

Respond to any interested buyer over email and/or by phone to answer his or her questions and to determine whether he or she is someone with whom you want to do business. Try to get a sense of his or her overall credibility and trustworthiness to see if you want to move forward.

Limit personal information.

Don't disclose any personally identifiable information, like where you work, until you feel comfortable with the other person. Avoid inviting someone to your home.

If a buyer seems to act suspicious or raises any red flags during preliminary contact, trust your instincts and walk away from the deal.

Meeting the Buyer

Avoid doing business with people who are not local.

Classifieds transactions should always be done locally. Don't accept offers from potential buyers you can't meet in person, especially those over your asking price. A common scam is an offer over your asking price plus an extra amount for shipping. The "buyer" will send a counterfeit cashier's check and ask you to refund the difference back to them. By the time you discover the cashier's check is counterfeit, it's too late.

Meet in a public place; avoid being alone.

Meet in a public place if possible, or if the item is large, like a piano or a washer and dryer, arrange to have a friend over when the buyer arrives. If you are selling an item, you may want to schedule your showings all at one time, especially if you are at home alone (there is safety in crowds). Let a neighbor know that potential buyers are coming to your house.

Be prepared to negotiate.

A buyer may want to haggle with you about the price of an item. Be prepared to negotiate the price and terms of the transaction, but be clear where you stand.

Remove listing when sold.

For common courtesy and to avoid angering potential buyers, once your item is sold, be sure to remove your classified ad and contact any interested buyers so they don't waste their time coming to see it.

The Transaction

Insist on cash.

In online classifieds, cash is the safest and the simplest for both parties. Do not accept personal checks, money wires, Western Union or Moneygrams. Do not give out any personally identifiable information such as bank numbers or credit card numbers. Also, ask for payment in full.

Protect your personally identifiable information.

Don't give out your social security number, bank numbers, credit card numbers, etc.

Offer a receipt.

Detail the amount of the transaction and the condition of the item should any further disputes arise. Make sure that both parties sign and keep a receipt, especially in the case of a car sale. You may need the receipt later as proof of relinquishing ownership and responsibility of the vehicle if it is not re-registered and gets a ticket, or is in an accident.