Shopping the web safely


This article was written by Bill Magnuson, CCP/SAFE

With the advancement of phone apps and social media sites making it possible to do almost anything we sometimes forget to use caution with respect to our personal safety. I have offered a few basic safety tips for buying and selling items through social media, and a few with respect to parents’ and kids’ screen time.


The most common Craigslist and other buy and selling app scams are:

  • Listings that don’t require a credit check for homes, cars or other used vehicles (usually, this is a way to get your personal information, or put you in crippling debt).
  • Requesting a wire transfer to either steal your money without giving you anything, or get your bank information.
  • Posting an item for sale that they don’t have, and including generic photos of the product in question.
  • Requesting to use PayPal, then sending you a link to sign up (it’s a phishing scam, so don’t click that link!).
  • Someone who wants to buy from you, or wants you to buy from them sight unseen (they’re stealing or robbing your identity, plain and simple).
  • Someone who wants to buy or sell you something and request to meet in a non-public location is probably planning on robbing you.

Safety Tips

  • Trust your instincts.
  • Don’t go alone.
  • Insist on meeting at a public place such as a safety swap spot.
  • Do not meet in a secluded area.
  • Do not invite strangers into your home, and do not go to theirs.
  • Be cautious when buying/selling high value items.
  • Perform the transaction during daylight hours.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it normally is.
  • Tell a friend or family member about your intentions, where you are going and when you expect to be back.
  • Take your cell phone with you.

Swap spots for your safety

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office has created swap spot-designated public places where folks can exchange items that they’ve bought and sold online. The Minneapolis Police Department five Precincts are all safe locations as well.

Online safety for kids

  • Keep the computer in a common area of your home so you can keep an eye out for safety.
  • Make an agreement about computer use, and phone use such as:
    • Sites they are allowed to visit.
    • Amount of time they can be online.
    • Parents should always have access to their child’s phone.
    • Basic safety rules.
  • Consider requiring that smartphones or I-phones, or tablets not be allowed in bedrooms.
  • No screen time before bed time, the brain needs time to wind down.
  • Agree on consequences for breaking the agreement.