Communities like Craigslist, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and others are great for finding low- or no-cost stuff that one can pick up directly from a nearby seller, and for getting rid of useful things that don’t deserve to end up in a landfill. But when dealing with strangers from the Internet, there is always a risk that the person you’ve agreed to meet has other intentions.
Nearly all U.S. states now have designated safe trading stations — mostly at local police departments — which ensure that all transactions are handled in plain view of both the authorities and security cameras.

These safe trading places exist because sometimes in-person transactions from the Internet don’t end well for one or more parties involved. The website Craigslistkillers has catalogued news links for at least 132 murders linked to Craigslist transactions since 2015. Many of these killings involved high-priced items like automobiles and consumer electronics, where the prospective buyer apparently intended all along to kill the owner and steal the item offered for sale. Others were motivated simply by a desire to hurt people.
This is not to say that using Craigslist is uniquely risky or dangerous; I’m sure the vast majority of transactions generated by the site end amicably and without physical violence. And that probably holds true for all of Craigslist’s competitors.
Still, the risk of a deal going badly when one meets total strangers from the Internet is not zero, and so it’s only sensible to take a few simple precautions. For example, choosing to transact at a designated safe place such as a police station dramatically reduces the likelihood that anyone wishing you harm would even show up.
I recently stumbled upon one of these designated exchange places by accident, hence my interest in learning more about them. The one I encountered was at a Virginia county sheriff’s office, and it has two parking spots reserved with a sign that reads, “Internet Purchase & Exchange Location: This Area is Under 24 Hour Video Surveillance” [image above].
According to the list maintained at, there are four other such designated locations in Northern Virginia. And it appears most states now have them in at least some major cities. also has a searchable index of safe trading locations in the United States and Canada.
Granted, not everyone is going to live close to one of these designated trading stations. Or maybe what you want to buy, sell or trade you’d rather not have recorded in front of police cameras. Either way, here are a few tips on staying safe while transacting in real life with strangers from the Internet (compliments of the aforementioned safe trading websites).
The safest exchange points are easily accessible and in a well-lit, public place where transactions are visible to others nearby. Try to arrange a meeting time that is during daylight hours, and consider bringing a friend along — especially when dealing with high-value items like laptops and smart phones. also advises that police or merchants that host their own exchange locations generally won’t get involved in the details of your transaction unless specified otherwise, and that many police departments (but not all) are willing to check the serial number of an item for sale to make sure it’s not known to be stolen property.
Of course, it’s not always practical or possible to haul that old sofa to the local police department, or a used car that isn’t working. In those situations, has some decent suggestions:
This entry was posted on Friday 9th of September 2022 08:40 AM
Thank you Brian. Good article. There is a grammatical error in the 1st sentence of paragraph 3.
I had never heard of this. I also found this site which had a more extensive list of places than the two listed in the article. Thanks for bringing this up.
One thing I’ve done is if I’m going to a stranger’s place to buy something is to let a friend/relative know the address and if I don’t reach back out in 30 minutes that I’m presumed dead and they should call the police.
Craigslist was a pretty good resource in its early days, but there are so many problems with it and other local type sales and exchange in person sites that it’s like heading into the crime jungle trying to sell anything. Scams abound, your contact info gets harvested for spam, there is always someone out there trying to separate you from your bank account. Every item I have put on CL for the last 10 years has invited phone calls or emails that only come from scammers. FB marketplace is full of what looks like a good deal on a large item, that turns out to be a another scam and the ad is repeated in multiple cities with the exact same ad. I quit using it for all of these reasons.
I’ve been noticing that if I reply to craigslist inquiries without including any contact info that bypasses the CL mail relay, that I’m getting very few callbacks
I’m starting to get the idea that it’s not a good idea to make use of phone numbers whenever a buyer contacts me with their number. They must first prove that they’re not just harvesting active phone numbers for resale
Exactly. You are using the feature correctly. OP is not.
“your contact info gets harvested for spam”
Nope. Craigslist uses their own email proxy service so unless
you spam a real email outside of that no one else will see it.
For maybe a decade or so.
User error is (common, but) user error regardless of platform.
If listing a phone number that’s a deliberate choice to add it.
Basic-savvy people can screen for legit buyers via email easily
without giving up a single bit of personal information until sure.
At some point if you can’t figure out if a buyer is real or a scam,
that’s on you regardless of platform, but your information need
not be harvested by anyone in that process on craigslist.
I’m sure this article is factually accurate, but it just inspires more nutty fear in Americans who are already overflowing with irrational terror of all sorts of ridiculous things, while not paying attention to the things that really are likely to kill them.
Anecdote: I’ve done dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of craigslist transactions. I’ve met a couple of unpleasant people.
Anecdote: I have numerous relatives and others who won’t “do craigslist” because it’s “dangerous.” Yup, that’s a pretty small sampling–but I’ll bet there are many, many, may Americans out there with the same fear.
Meanwhile, every day Americans drive all over everywhere on a whim, making frequent stops at their favorite fast food chain to get a couple bacon extra cheese extra special arteriosclerosis burgers (with extra bacon), never exercise, can’t sleep without pills, are constantly stressed, smoke, drink too much, pop pain-killers like candy…
In America every year: way over 500,000 dead from heart disease (with extra bacon), 480,000+ dead from smoking, 30,000+ dead in car accidents… need I list more?
Craigslist deaths since 2015: 17-18 per year
You’ve got about a 2.3x higher chance of getting killed by lightning than you do doing craigslist.
It’s true though: your chances of getting killed by using craigslist are NEARLY 35% HIGHER than being crushed by a vending machine! EGADS!
As someone who grew up in Europe, I never met a people as scared as Americans.
That is why we need all our guns.
And yet your guns are exactly why you’re scared. It’s a catch-22 with a death sentence.
That’s why I never meet up next to a vending machine!
Whataboutism. This is a cybercrime and cyber security site. Krebs acknowledges that the probability of being killed from online criminals is fairly low, but he does not have to change subjects to talk about health problems, or any of the other things that kill more Americans each year.
This article does not drum up fear. It drums up awareness. Making bad decisions and mistakes online have consequences and awareness can help with that.
If this were a medical journal discussing using sunscreen on the beach, or a blog for electricians and the dangers of higher voltages, it would be the same.
“Photocopy the license or identification paper, or use your phone to photograph it…
Email the ID information to a friend, or to someone trusted”
Really Brian? I don’t know about you but I am not letting anyone email or take a snap of my DL with their phone, and I am certainly not going to endorse them sending my drivers license info over the internet via email. The necessary info is name, address, DL#. That can be written down in just a few seconds.
I am not even sure I’d want someone to snap my photo either but that seems like the least problematic as photo scanning catalogs likely already contain my likeness whether I agree or not.
At least he didn’t specify “outdated android phone loaded with random apps” right?
Is a dedicated list for this even necessary? Given the ubiquitous monitoring that cheap technology has given us, there have to be countless areas that are under 24/7 surveillance. I mean, why wouldn’t *any* police station be useful for this purpose? Or some high-value corporate location like a bank, jewelry store, car dealership, etc.
Also, the “never be outnumbered” advice leads to a bit of an arms race. And I would *never* accept checks or any other kind of delayed payment for an item someone is going to walk off with immediately. I’d even be a little concerned if someone had cash but was waiting to pay me until they could be sure the item fit in their vehicle.
But I’ve generally had good luck with Internet people who show up in person. Most online scammers don’t put in that kind of effort. People who are going to be jerks to your face don’t need craigslist to act that way.
Never heard of it. Don’t know if my little hole in the wall in the Rustbelt even has safe trading areas. But I don’t do much with private sales. Part of that is because of lack of good sales advertising, another is the very reason of this article…safety. (I was going to try Facebook to sell stuff…but they banned my…twice.) I sometimes meet people at the Post Office as a safe trade area. What I like best is to just sell on eBay. I don’t like dealing with people f2f.
I always have a gun on me…even when taking a sauna. When out and about I carry (2) Hellcat 9mm’s. I used to carry a S&W AirLite .38 snub. But Summer of Love 2020 shut down any interest I have in revolvers. With the way things are going, doing grocery shopping may be a life-or-death circumstance someday. No better time to hit you up that when your head is in the car. If things get that bad, shop in teams.
If you live in a local that is not friendly to self-defense, has no CCW, get nitrogen powered pepper spray. It shoots in any position. Although some of you are only allowed low potency, small size pepper cans. Another good non-lethal weapon is a high-powered tactical flashlight. You should get 1000 lumens minimum. When outdoors I use a 3000-lumen light. It also acts as a bludgeon.
I live in a Constitutional Carry state. You need no permit to carry guns. But I have a permit anyway as I routinely drive into 2 adjacent states. They recognize the permit, but they don’t recognize Constitutional Carry of my state. So, stay legal and know your laws…and your D.A.!
My township set up an “Internet Exchange Zone” by the Town Hall, Police Department and Municipal Court about six years ago.
“The location is well lit and a camera provides 24/7 police surveillance. In order to utilize the zone, either the buyer or the seller must be a Marlboro resident. Prior to the transaction, the resident is required to register the transaction by completing the secure ‘Internet Exchange Zone Transaction’ form found on the Township website via a link on the right side of the homepage at . Private exchanges of motor vehicles, weapons or items that do not fit in a 10×10 parking spot will not be permitted.”
You may want to check your local municipal government website to see if there is a similar safe exchange zone set up near you.
Unfortuneately, the link to returns this message:
Suspicious page blocked for your protection
Your connection to this web page is not safe due to a revoked security certificate.
Revoked certificates are usually fraudulently obtained or used and represent a risk for the way your data is handled.
Pack heat. Never enter a web unless you are the spider.
Grow a pair. Guns are for posing with on Facebook.
If you were shooting bad guys you wouldn’t brag online.
Site was just defaced. Said el8 owns you.
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