search > User Safety


We are committed to creating a user-friendly environment, where our users can post and reply to ads and other messages freely and without concern. What follows are a number of tips and techniques you should keep in mind to protect yourself and your privacy online, whether you are using our site or some other site on the Internet. (Some of these suggestions "repeat" because they apply in multiple situations.) This list is not exhaustive and you should not use it as a substitute for your own common sense. As always, the best protection is to use good judgment and trust your instincts.

Responding to an Ad

Online ads help us find all kinds of different goods and services easily and quickly. It is important to remember that whether you are responding to a rental ad, a job posting, personal or "for sale" ad, you have never met the person behind the ad before. Use caution.

  • Do not wire money, or send a check, for an apartment you have not seen to a person you have never met.
  • Do not give out personal information about yourself, such as your social security number, without verifying that a job posting is legitimate.
  • Meet people in a public place.
  • Do not go check out furniture in someone's house alone. Bring a friend.

Placing an Ad

Online advertising allows us to quickly and effectively reach as many people as possible that are interested in what we are selling or offering. It is important to remember that you may not know the people responding to your ad, so be careful.

  • Do not include personal information in an ad, such as your full name or address, and do not post images or content that are prohibited by our Terms of Use or Privacy Policy, like nudity or messages relating to illegal activities.
  • Talk to people on the phone before giving them information, like your address, and trust your instincts.
  • If someone is coming to check out the sofa you advertised, make sure you are not alone when they arrive.
  • If you are selling something portable but expensive, such as a DVD player or a digital camera, consider showing it to people in a coffee shop instead of your home.
  • If you are selling a car, make sure you are meeting the person somewhere public for a test drive, bring a friend, and be careful driving home.
  • Meet people in a public place.

Safety Tips

  • Learn more at
  • Be careful when purchasing gift cards through auction sites or classified ads; they may be empty or fraudulent.
  • Be careful when bidding on auctions for products; they may be stolen.
  • Be careful when replying to mystery or secret shopper jobs; you may end up owing all the money to the bank you thought you were getting paid.
  • Be cautious when it comes to work-from-home opportunities, especially ones that do not require experience or time.
  • Do not give money to an individual claiming to be the victim of a disaster if you do not know them.
  • Do not give money to an organization if you have not heard of it.
  • Do not wire money, or send a check, for an apartment you have not seen to a person you have never met.
  • Do not give out personal information about yourself, such as your social security number, without verifying that a job posting is legitimate.
  • Meet people in a public place. Preferably a safe trade station.

Scams and Fraud

No matter where we are or what we are doing, a handful of people can make it difficult for everyone. This is true in the online advertising area as well. Use the same common sense you would use in the real world when reading an ad. If it is too good to be true, it is a scam. Please read about these common scam types to educate yourself.


Money Order/Wire Transfer Scam

Avoid scams by following these guidelines:

  • If the person you are dealing with is not local to you and does not want to meet, it is probably a scam.
  • Never wire funds. Anyone requesting a wire transfer is probably a scammer.
  • Keep in mind that fake cashiers checks and money orders are common tools for scam artists. You may even be held responsible for legal and financial ramifications if you attempt to process fraudulent checks or money orders. Money order fraud is specifically not reimbursed by most institutions and the victim is required to go through local police to attempt to recover lost funds.
  • is not involved in ANY transaction, does not handle payments, offer guarantees or buyer protection.
  • Never give out any of your personal financial information. Anyone requesting this is probably a scammer.
  • Deals involving shipping or escrow services are usually fraudulent. NO ONE CAN GUARANTEE YOUR TRANSACTION.
  • If a buyer offers you more than your asking price, it is probably a scam.

Recognizing common scams:

Wiring money is like sending cash. The sender has no protections against loss.

  • DO NOT wire money to strangers or sellers who insist on wire transfers for payment.
  • DO NOT send money to someone you do not know. Try to deal locally and in person if possible. Do not send cash or use a wire transfer service.
  • DO NOT respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial information.
  • DO NOT agree to deposit a check from someone you do not know and then wire money back.

By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. You are responsible for the checks you deposit. When a check turns out to be a fake, it's you who is responsible for paying back the bank.

Know where an offer comes from and who you are dealing with.

Most scams involve one or more of the following:

  • Inquiry from someone far away.
  • Wire transfers, cashier's checks, money orders, shipping, escrow services or "guarantees."
  • Refusal to meet face to face before transaction.

To Report Scams and Frauds:

Work From Home Scam

How it Works

  • Someone places a job ad online looking for a rebate or payment processor.
  • You respond and get the job.
  • You are asked to provide your bank account info to your new employer to facilitate direct deposits; might sound like a good idea, but it could be dangerous.
  • Funds are put into this account and you are told to wire the money to a third account. This account is often international, but not always.
  • You get to deduct a percent of the wired amount as your commission or payment.
  • You are actually laundering stolen funds through your own account.
  • Whether you know you are laundering money or not, you can still be prosecuted.
  • The people you gave your bank account info to can also take money from you or steal your identity.


  • Be cautious when it comes to work-from-home opportunities, especially ones that do not require experience or time.
  • Be cautious of opportunities that require you to pay for materials or supplies.
  • Figure out if the company is legitimate through the Better Business Bureau (for US-based companies) or WHOIS/Domain Tools (for international companies). Also look at the FTC's recommendations: Online Scams.
  • Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
  • If you think you may be a victim of one of these scams, contact your financial institution immediately. --Report any suspicious work-from-home offers or activities to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

(Above information about "work from home" scams is compiled from IC3 PDF.)

Mystery/Secret Shopper Scam

  • You see a job posting for a mystery shopper.
  • You are asked to send a resume and told you will undergo a background check.
  • You are sent a check that will cover purchases and money wire transactions, with the remaining balance as your payment.
  • You are given instructions to shop at a specified retailer for a specific length of time and spend a specific amount on merchandise from the store.
  • You are told to take note of the store's environment, color, payment procedures, gift items, and shopping/carrier bags and report back to the employer.
  • You are then told you will be checking the ease and accuracy of wiring money from the retail location.
  • After the merchandise is purchased and money is wired, the bank tells you that the check cashed was counterfeit, and you are responsible for the money lost in addition to bank fees incurred.
  • Occasionally, you will be asked to submit your bank account information so that money can be deposited into your account. The fraudster will then have access to your accounts and be able to withdraw your money.

Rental and Real Estate Scam

If you are posting the rental ad:

  • Someone will respond to your ad with an interest in renting or buying the property.
  • They will send you a check that is in excess of the amount you indicated, and request you send them the difference.
  • They will send you a check that is the exact amount, but back out at the last minute.
  • You will think all of the above checks are legitimate and potentially begin using the funds.
  • The check(s) will turn out to be counterfeit and the bank will hold you responsible for all losses.

If you are reading the rental ad:

  • A scammer will duplicate postings from legitimate real-estate websites and place them on classified advertisement websites.
  • The scammer will often use the real-estate agent's real name to create a fake email address.
  • When you respond to the ad, the scammer will reply, claiming to be the owner. S/he will say he is out of the country (often on mission work) so you cannot see the property. They will ask you to mail the check (often to a foreign address). They may also ask you to wire money.
  • Your check will be cashed or money received, and you will not be able to recover your losses.

Gift Card Fraud

Be careful when purchasing gift cards through auction sites or classified ads. It is safer to purchase gift cards directly from the merchant or retail store. The seller may claim the card holds a certain value, but they may be lying. If you are purchasing a gift card, make sure you meet the seller at the store and have the gift card run through for verification. Additionally, if the gift card merchant discovers that your card is fraudulent, the merchant will deactivate the gift card and refuse to honor it for purchases. Victims of this scam lose the money paid for the gift card purchase.

Auction Sales Fraud

Be careful when bidding on auctions for products. Fraudsters will post ads for items they do not have. They will charge your credit card (or debit your account) for the item and then use a stolen credit card to buy the actual item and have it shipped to you. They keep your money and you may be liable for receiving stolen products. Buy directly from the product merchant or make sure you research who you are buying products from.

Disaster Scams

Some fraudsters will prey on your desire to help others. Make sure you are only donating to organizations you have heard of, and make sure you are donating directly on their official website. Do not give money to an individual claiming to be the victim of a disaster if you do not know them.

Human Trafficking

Over the past 15 years, "trafficking in persons" and "human trafficking" have been used as umbrella terms for activities involved when someone obtains or holds a person in compelled service.

The United States government considers trafficking in persons to include all of the criminal conduct involved in forced labor and sex trafficking, essentially the conduct involved in reducing or holding someone in compelled service. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act as amended (TVPA) and consistent with the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol), individuals may be trafficking victims regardless of whether they once consented, participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked, were transported into the exploitative situation, or were simply born into a state of servitude. Despite a term that seems to connote movement, at the heart of the phenomenon of trafficking in persons are the many forms of enslavement, not the activities involved in international transportation.

For more information on Human Trafficking, please visit Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

To report a potential victim of Human Trafficking, or if you are a victim yourself or you know someone whom you suspect may be, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline at 1-888-3737-888, or visit: Report a Tip | Polaris Project | Combating Human Trafficking and Modern-day Slavery.

Child Exploitation

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children helps not only locate missing kids, but also helps children that are victims of sexual exploitation of any kind.

If you have seen a missing child, or a child that is being victimized, please take action and make a report to the CyberTipline: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

For more information on the National Center, please visit: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.


Rev.: 2024 is an interactive computer service that enables access by multiple users and should not be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. © 2024