use craigslist without personal number

Simple Tips to Protect Yourself When Using Craigslist

As one of the most commonly used websites in the US, Craigslist plays a role as a platform where products and services are ordered online covering jobs, housing, sharing, second hand, community services, etc. Whenever the Internet is nowadays used, online privacy should never be missed out. Therefore, no matter what online service is being used or usually used, your online privacy should be well protected. Here comes a simple and complete guide on that.

Craigslist Privacy Risks

According to Craigslist Privacy Policy, the following items of users’ online data are collected:

  • First and last name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Mailing or street address
  • Credit card data
  • Geographic location (latitude and longitude)
  • Photos and other data you voluntarily provide, post on or send via Craigslist
  • Saved searches, account preferences, favorite/hidden postings
  • HTTP browser cookie
  • Information about your device and browser such as device ID, browser version, operating system, plugins
  • IP address
  • Web page views, access times, HTTP headers

Under the precondition that Craigslist is totally secure that it never shares users’ data with mega third parties like Facebook or Google, your online privacy is still risky whenever a transaction occurs.

Take your phone number as an example. It’s been claimed by Craigslist in its Privacy Policy that phone number is collected for:

  • User-to-user communications
  • Combatting fraud/abuse
  • Personalizing your (users’) use of Craigslist

Among the above aims for phone number collection, user-to-user communications account for the majority. It means once an order takes place between a seller and a buyer, communications need to be carried out between them for the order’s smooth running. However, if your personal phone number is provided to either a seller or buyer, it’s equivalently risky for online privacy. The communications on Craigslist are never needed every day and is it worthwhile or safe to provide your personal phone number to a temporary situation? Absolutely NOT!

On one hand, it’s meaningless to let a stranger have your personal phone number since there may be only one chance for you to start a conversation and whenever the order ends, no communications will be generated. On the other hand, leaving your personal number to a stranger is risky because you’ll be always available for the other and it seems impossible to avoid his or her tracking. After all, your personal phone number will be hardly changed. Moreover, whenever your personal phone number is combined with your other privacy data like name, email, or address, your complete identity of yours will be instantly sketched.

Your online data pieces are useless unless someone knows how to combine and abuse them.

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Must-Follow Tips to Protect Craigslist Privacy

Tip#1. Use a second number.

Everyone should have two numbers, a private one and a public one. The former is left to close friends and family while the latter is to all other situations.

Nowadays, online registration mostly calls for a phone number that is used to verify the validity of online users. In other words, a phone number may be linked to all online accounts across all services if the same phone number is used for registration. Moreover, some services especially encourage users to create an account with their existing account on other mega apps like Facebook or Google. As a result, based on the only phone number, all the online accounts are easy to be linked and it’s extremely easy and possible for private data to be breached via the Internet.

Different from mega services like Facebook, Craigslist is, however, mostly used for temporary situations like second-hand markets or one-time activities like house cleaning. A private phone number should be avoided since privacy risk is never worthwhile for a temporary case.

Therefore, using a second number is dramatically beneficial for Craigslist users to protect their online privacy because it separates the online and offline identities so that the real identity won’t be tracked in the actual world. Also, the second number also protects against data breach that is common to see on any third party.

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Tip#2. Slim Craigslist profile.

Omit any personal information about yourself when you create your Craigslist ad. Do not include your phone number, a permanent email address, or anything in photos of your product that someone could use to find your house or place of business.

Here’s my tip: I wanted to sell some furniture on Craigslist last month, but I didn’t feel comfortable publishing my real phone number. My friend suggested I get a phone number from a free calling app Dingtone and use that. I downloaded the app, got a local Boston phone number, and posted the ad. It worked perfectly. All the calls and texts got forwarded to my real cell number. With one phone, I effectively had two phone numbers: the Dingtone number to seamlessly deal with the public and my real phone number for everything else. I sold my furniture and never had to use my real number which makes me feel safer using Craigslist. A free calling app can be really helpful when you don’t want your privacy public to everyone.

Tip#3. Use a temporary email.

Select “anonymize” under your “Reply to” email address. This will create a random email address that will forward any mail it receives to the email address you provide. Also, you can use a free calling app to send anonymous texts if you care much about personal information.

Tip#4. Pay attention to physical security.

Never meet prospective buyers in your home. Arrange meetings with prospective buyers in a public place. This will reduce the chance of the prospective buyer robbing you and keeps thieves pretending to be interested in buying your merchandise from scouting out your home or place of business for a future crime.

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