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By Martha Houle

Craigslist and Facebook deals are my guilty pleasure. I paid a whopping $20 for my most recent purchase: a wooden coffee table with plastic wheels. It was basically trash.

But one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. For those of you who think this story is about furniture, I’m not talking about tie-downs and bungee cords.

Every time I walk into a seller’s house, I’m strapped. As sweet and unassuming as I may look, I’m packing a gun underneath my torn jeans and an old t-shirt.

Over the years, I’ve concealed carried into strangers’ homes without anyone suspecting or asking. Thankfully, I haven’t had an incident or a moment where I felt I might be in danger. Even so, I’ve never second-guessed my decision to protect my life with a concealed firearm when venturing into any uncharted territory.

However, that got me thinking.

How would that play out if I had to shoot someone in their home in self-defense? What if a Craigslist or Facebook garage sale ad was a setup designed to lure unsuspecting women into a trap? What if a deal goes south and the seller suddenly flips out and attacks?

It could happen. Actually, it has happened[Editor:  We covered a first-person account of an attempted armed robbery a couple of years ago here.]

Let’s reverse the situation; would I feel safe if a Craigslist or Facebook buyer showed up at my door carrying concealed? I could unknowingly be inviting an armed criminal, sex offender, or thief into the sanctity of my own home.

I’d like to believe all gun owners are equal. Truth be told, they’re not. As Clint Eastwood put it, “I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.”

When Craigslist and Facebook buyers come to look at my treasures, armed or not, I’m wary. I restrict them to the garage or front lawn. At the first sign of unease, I invite them to leave. I carry concealed as we negotiate (as I do throughout my day anyway) wherever it’s legal to do so.

You may call me paranoid. I prefer to call myself cautious. Sensible even. Then again, I did buy a coffee table with plastic wheels….

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  1. I’m a regular Craigslist buyer and seller, and like it a lot. We meet at the large 7 Eleven parking lot down the hill from my place for all transactions. No one comes in or near my place, family, or property – nor knows where it is. Never had a problem, and they always like the idea of a safe, well-lit meeting place.

    • My one and only Craigslist experience was a great deal. Some dude bought a new mountain bike so he could “get back into shape” (he was a heavy guy). He brought it home, rode it around the block, then let it sit for a year. He had me come to his house. There’s no way I would invite some stranger to my house, but he lived in a dense neighborhood, while I live off the beaten path.

    • Our family also often buys second hand items off CL and FBM. As often as is practical, we meet in public places, but that can be challenging when selling/buying a couch, or a fridge. So we have had people at our house, and we have been in other homes.

      If selling, I bring the items outside to be viewed. I also, do not give out our address until the buyer has proven to me beyond reasonable doubt, he/she isn’t a murderbot, or a scaminal. On FBM,, this is usually pretty easy, since most Americans post their entire life for all to see on FB.

      If buying, we stay in “condition orange”, and never go Alone.

      Do I carry? All. Day. Every. Day.

  2. If you are a regular seller on any Interweb platform you should never allow a potential first time buyer to know where you live. Only after doing numerous transactions with a buyer should you even consider allowing them to know where you live. Best practices is to do all your business at an offsite location. Allowing people you don’t really know into your home is a recipe for bad thing to happen. Even if you trust the buyer that person could talk to someone with ill intent and turn your life into a SHTF situation. Be Safe Out There…

    • Darkman,

      Even if you trust the buyer that person could talk to someone with ill intent and turn your life into a SHTF situation.

      If I am not mistaken, that is EXACTLY what happened to a neighbor of mine four doors away. A new “friend” of my neighbor described the home and suspicion that they had a stack of cash to one of his friends. Within days that friend of the “friend” carried out an armed home-invasion at my neighbor’s home.

      Making matters worse, as (bad) luck would have it, the home-invader unknowingly broke-in when the father was not home. The event was off-the-charts traumatic for one of the daughters who ran out of her home and frantically went from neighbor to neighbor trying to open neighbors’ doors without knocking/permission to get inside (to a place of safety in her mind). The only “highlight” in that event: the eldest son was home and old/big/courageous enough to engage the home-invader via hand-to-hand methods and provided enough incentive for the home-invader to leave. Nevertheless, the psychological damage was already done to the daughters.

      Interesting note: not only did allowing the new “friend” into the home end up causing extreme danger because of the resulting armed home invasion, the daughter’s reaction — breaking into a neighbor’s home to effect escape — could have resulted in a neighbor tackling, clubbing, or even shooting the daughter in the confusion, darkness, and early hour (it was around 6:00 a.m.).

    • Having nothing to do with Craigslist, I have been concerned about this with ordinary people for years.

      We had a good friend we met in the early 2000s who was getting her life together after a history of drug abuse. She did get herself together, and has gone on to remain clean and be successful for more than 15 years now. Her husband at the time (long since ex) remained a heroin addict and added crack to his repertoire.

      I told her on many occasions not to say anything about anything she saw at our place or any range trips around him, their friends, or anyone in their neighborhood.

  3. Years back, I bought a snowblower off of a Craigslist seller. As it was after dark when I showed up, I had my daily gun with me in an IWB. At some point while I was deciding between the big snowblower and the Really big snowblower, the seller for some reason mentioned that he was just a couple of seconds away from a gun at any point in the garage. I casually responded that I was legally carrying, and would he rather I leave? After a couple of wierd moments, he sort of laughed ” touche”… the sale proceeded and I spent the drive home thinking “W.T.F. was that about?” Sold a car on it over the weekend (during daylight). but I’ll never be a big fan of Craigslist… my wierd shit-o-meter always seems to be stuck on Full.

  4. Here is the honest-to-God naked truth: there are nasty/awful people in the world — there always has been and there always will be.

    Certainly, the overwhelming majority of people (maybe 99.5% or more) are not going to attempt to harm you at a purchase/sale meet-up. Unfortunately, there are a small number of people who will. And classic risk management compels us to implement mitigation measures even for tiny risks when the outcome of that risk is catastrophic. Thus, while the risk of someone attempting to harm us at a purchase/sale meet-up is very low, the catastrophic potential outcome of that meet-up compels us to mitigate that risk.

    The fun question is: what is a practical risk mitigation strategy in random purchase/sale meet-ups? In my mind it involves a few factors:
    1) Immediately end the event if you get the heeby-geebies.
    2) Meet at a public location if at all possible.
    3) Meet at an open location with other people around.
    4) Be discretely armed in case you have to defend yourself.

    • What if the guy who gives you the heebie-jeebies is an FFL dealer?
      Buying and selling on Gunbroker, I’m forced to do all the transfers through an FFL and pay a transfer fee.
      Back when my LGS charged a transfer fee of $50 (it just went up to $75), there was a local FFL dealer who only charged $35, but he worked out of his home.
      I used to use him for transfers because I saved $15 each time.
      But this inexpensive FFL guy creeped me out.
      He did the transfers out of his basement, but that’s not what creeped me out.
      He was a big, scary-looking old guy.
      One time while I was there, he started talking about how he had a dispute with his neighbors, and he won the dispute by terrorizing the neighbor. He did things like slashing the neighbor’s tires every night until the neighbor gave up and moved away. He was sneaky, so he never got caught or arrested, and the neighbor couldn’t prove who was terrorizing him.

      This FFL guy bragged about doing this, bragged about committing felonies and terrorizing his neighbor!
      Not the kind of guy I want handling my FFL transfers.
      Not the kind of guy who should have an FFL to begin with.
      Not the kind of guy I want to do business with.
      I’d rather pay a $75 transfer fee to my LGS, because at least my LGS is honest and won’t slash my tires in the middle of the night.

      • All the LGS in my town charge $75 for any gun they are not selling to you, typically something bought over the internet. I do use a tabletop FFL who charges only $25 for the transfer. He lives a few blocks away. He is the former chaplain for the local PD, so I don’t worry about him at all.

        • Well Larry, for about the last seven months, it’s the $50 to $125 fee that late to the gamers pay the gun shop to make the sale of the last gun on the shelf ( recently marked up 50%… shoulda’ been a little more cognizant) legal in the eyes of the law. I laugh every time I hear someone bitch about what they paid for something they most likely didn’t really want in the first place !!

      • Same rules apply; shitty people are shitty and everywhere, and being shitty does not preclude them from having a FFL, being a doctor/nurse, driving a school bus, being elected to office, delivering your mail etc.

  5. Went to look at a CL car once in a bad neighborhood, so bad could barely drive down the street as it was packed with cars, no room to turn around and a dead end. Then all the “porch-spectators” started moving in and closing ranks. I was strapped, and said to my self “F-this!” and boogied outta there pronto.

  6. Didn’t your momma tell you to be wary of strangers bearing gifts? What makes you think that changes when you grow up?l

  7. Recently, while driving through a largish metro area near where I live, I saw a sign in the parking lot of a shopping plaza that identified that busy well-lit public area as a Craigslist transaction spot.

    No unknown folks invited to my home, not these days.

  8. Always avoid selling Nike sneakers, XBox, Playstations, games, etc. Seems to attract unrully crowd.

    If you have to, go to a local Police station. Bad guys might avoid it. Saving your time.

  9. This raises a similar question I’ve been wondering.
    How will I maintain OPSEC while running a “kitchen table FFL”?

  10. Craigslist isn’t just selling or buying something. It’s an adventure.

    I suggest meeting people where there are cameras. That way if you have to zap some idiot we all get to watch the video (and to have evidence for the cops).

  11. I have gifted a number of items to friends over the years rather than risk Craigslist riff-raff showing up at my place.

    A few years ago, I bought a couple of items at great prices off CL, but eventually I decided that shopping online for new products and paying a few more bucks beats the risk of a buy gone bad.

    And then there’s my friend Florio’s very bad Christmas shopping experience in 2017…

  12. agree with another poster: no internet random is ever coming to my home, and i’m never going to their home.

    public place or no deal. easy as pie

  13. Check with your local police or sheriff’s departments. Our PD has a monitored space outside their HQ just for such transactions. It is monitored 24/7 via video in the dispatcher’s station.

    • Same here. The local PD keep their outer lobby open 24/7 monitored by 2 cameras and full time desk personnel with a posted sign designating it as a transaction site for such things.

  14. I’ve bought a number of things off people on craigslist over the years. Also have done local pickup for a couple of ebay transactions that offered it. There was another app/thing for people to sell things on that I used a few times as well. Can’t remember it’s name.

    Never had a problem. Always carried. Usually I’ve gone to people’s houses or businesses. I don’t recall meeting someone at a separate location. Having done home health and home hospice I am pretty used to dealing with strange people in weird situations. Some of my home hospice visits were more hinky than any of my craigs list transactions.

  15. Why on earth would u do a private transaction in a strangers house? Never ever do that. That’s what’s 711’s are for

  16. Ripoffs during Craigslist transactions are common enough that police offer the use of their station parking lots which have video surveillance. Unfortunately, they are also off limits to carry by private citizens.

    The one time I bought something through Craigslist, it was a VCR with an analog tuner after TV had gone digital. (My cable provider still offered analog signals for us ) I arranged to meet the seller in the lobby of a busy public library near noon. She came in with the VCR under her arm, I gave her my $50, and we said goodbye. No exchange of names or other personal information.

    • My local PD doesn’t restrict the carrying of firearms on PD property. In fact as long as you have a Carry permit and notify the Command Officer you can be authorized to wear it into the Station. I do it quite often. Also wore it on my last ride along with my personal vest, but then I support local Law enforcement in many ways as a private citizen and Emergency Response Team member. YMMV. Be Safe Out There.

  17. You need to take names, addresses and verified phone numbers from sellers, buyers, etc. Do not rely on e-mail alone. If your local PD isn’t on fire then arrange to meet there, many PDs offer their parking lot for such meetings and if not sure call them. If you are driving in from out town like I did when purchasing a motorcycle off Craigslist then meet at a Walmart. DMV or anywhere security cameras and witnesses are. Prior to taking any such risk make sure your piece is functioning perfectly. The game is to bag the bad guy and not allow the bad guy to put you in a bag, etc.

    • got my buell a couple years ago off clist. caught a ride out, both of us paying attention, rode home. nice guy, weird bike.

  18. My wife & I have been antique dealers for more than 25 years. We have a few garage sales per year but don’t invite stranger’s into our home. At least not in many years. I have gone to other homes many times. Offer up,craigs crap or local sales group’s aren’t a part of our business.

  19. yeah, some sketchy individs for sure. bikes, phones, game systems are high turnover. and it’s weird that people list old box fans for ten bucks, hardly seems worth the time.
    harmfist is less random, pretty much all right thinkin’ folks- the squirrelly ones give off the vibe early on.
    put the last of the old sony flat screen/ tubes on clist under “free. 250lbs. need truck. i will hold the door.” two gals show up in a sedan, we can handle it, we’re triage nurses. they couldn’t lift it, no portal was large enough on their vehicle to accept it. i dollied it back and forth; they came back in an suv. so much for sparing my back. i hate those monsters.
    probably still works.

  20. My local PD encourages Craigslist meetups in the police station parking lot. I think that transacting business with strangers at the cop shop is a wise choice.

  21. Always have to aware of your situation.

    Meeting someone at 11pm, behind an abandoned warehouse, with cash… probably never a good idea.

    Some of this is natural selection.

  22. Meet at a well-lit, safe public place. The public parking lot at your local police station is an excellent choice.

    • +1.

      I’ve done a couple in the very large parking lot of GT Distributors (Austin). It’s a cop shop and substantial LGS, with lots of security cameras. You can also safely assume that just about every customer going in/out of it is legally armed.

      And it has LE vehicles (marked and unmarked) coming and going almost constantly — more than even the finest donut shop!

  23. You can also check out the address in advance via Google Earth before leaving home. One time I did that and the “streetview” photo showed a drug deal in progress in front of the house.

  24. If I’m meeting someone to sell a “high risk” item like an iPhone or something, I will do the following.

    1) meet at a Starbucks near my house.
    2) Get there 15 minutes early and get a table with my back to the wall.
    3) Carry an empty “give away” gun.
    4) Carry another gun loaded and ready to go.

    The way I look at it, if I’m being held at gunpoint, I will offer to him that I have a gun and while presenting it to him with my weak hand, I’ll drop it on the ground.

    His attention will be 100% on the gun bouncing around on the ground.

    Its then time for me to get off the dime, draw and shoot.

    Of course, this is only if I give up the iPhone and he doesn’t immediately leave. I’m ok with giving up property to diffuse the situation. But I’m not going to bet my life on his good will.

    p.s. Never give a warning.

    • You carry an unloaded gun to use as a decoy so you can draw your other, loaded gun? Dude you watch too many movies lol. That’s the first time I’ve heard that one.

  25. Just sling your ar14 that lobotomy joe wants to take from you!

  26. I recently sold an older work truck via Craigslist. I set up a meeting in the early afternoon in a church parking lot not too far from my home. I was carrying my Smith M&P Shield in an OWB holster covered by an untucked shirt. The buyer was carrying a J-frame on his belt under his shirt. We laughed and both agreed that the world can be a dangerous place. I got good vibes from the guy and the deal went well without any hassles. He paid me in cash and the bills checked out okay too.

    The bigger threat in this deal came from people who e-mailed and wanted to run various scams. A guy named Dmitri (I kid you not) said that he wanted to buy my truck so bad that he’d give me a thousand dollars more than I was asking in a “certified check”. Another guy said that he wanted to buy my 18 year old truck via wire transfer and ship it down to Mexico. No thanks. “Some men rob you with a pistol and some with a fountain pen.”

  27. We sold an old 1990 Honda Civic on CL about twenty years ago. We had bought and sold a few other things on CL before that (some small furniture, college textbooks, etc.), but never anything more than maybe a hundred bucks. So we were a little leery, but figured it would be ok.

    This guy actually showed up at our house without responding online to the ad, because he had his cop buddy abuse his authority and pull our home address from the license plate in the photos. Surprise #1. Creepy as that was, when we went for the test drive, this guy had another buddy of his pop up out of the car they had arrived in and jump into the backseat of the Honda. We had never even seen a second person in their car. Surprise #2. In those days, I didn’t carry concealed and only had my Emerson wave knife on me.

    Ultimately, the test drive was otherwise uneventful. When we got back, we chitchatted warily for a minute before he said he’d think about it and they left. That was the last we heard from them, thankfully. We ended up selling it to a local college kid and his high school little brother, who were going to share it. We met up with them and their girlfriends at an IHOP and conducted the test drive in the shopping strip parking lot.

    Be very careful with those CL transactions. There’s a lot of opportunity for surprises and for things to turn pear-shaped on you. Final tip: cover up your license plate and anything else personally identifiable in the pictures.

    • So if he actually did run a plate like that without authority he committed a crime. You can report that. NCIC keeps record of all transactions. It can get that cop real in trouble. If he’s doing it once he’s doing it twice and he knows better.

  28. I have happily bought and sold many cars, motorcycles, bicycles, trombones (don’t judge), kitchen appliances, tools for the workbench, … via ads on Craigslist. I don’t want a buyer to know where my house is, and a seller’s house is too risky for me, so I always insist on meeting at a Starbucks, a Safeway or police parking lot, or some other very public place.

    Right on their front page, Craigslist links to their Personal Safety Tips:

    When meeting someone for the first time, please remember to:
    – Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe, bank, or shopping center.
    – Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.
    – Be especially careful buying/selling high value items.
    – Tell a friend or family member where you’re going.
    – Take your cell phone along if you have one.
    – Consider having a friend accompany you.
    – Trust your instincts.

    Oddly, they forgot Go armed.

  29. Over many years I’ve sold stuff on CL. A few times it was not possible to conduct the sale away from home due to the item (large Drum kit, etc.). In these cases I talk to the potential buyer on the phone for a while, even getting off the call to talk again later, to get a feel for what they are like. I ask a lot of questions. Maybe I’ve been lucky but I’ve never had an issue with them. One item was a 65″ Projection TV that weighed 300 pounds so obviously they had to pick it up at my house. In that instance I had two other men here to “Help me load it”. All of us were armed. Still never a problem though. I haven’t done it in over a year now and I’m sure thugs have refined their game a little by now.

  30. Or don’t use services or interact with people who you find sketchy to save a few bucks on curios or baubles. Is it worth the negative outcome?

      • boy howdy.
        as shirl used to say, “dere arnt no garantees.”
        she also said, “ya gotta move sum stuf to fine sum stuf.”
        and she called her new surround sound, “aroun an aroun soun.”
        thanks for stopping by.

  31. Making any transaction with strangers in your home is unbelievable. I’ve purchased and sold many things off of online selling sites such as Armslist and NEVER made the transaction anywhere but a public location. The police where I live allow folks to make their transactions in the PD parking lots if they choose. Going into a strangers house or letting that stranger in mine? No frickin’ way.

    I’m sorry article author but, armed or not, inviting strangers into your home or going into theirs for the purpose of buying/selling things found online is a terrible idea. I hope you reconsider that practice.

  32. If you’ve made it this far down on the comments, kudos to you. 🙂

    “I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.”
    – Clint Eastwood

    “I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.”
    – also every Leftist Governor, Mayor, Sheriff, Police Chief, etc.

  33. They don’t call it cracklist for nothing. Beware the deals too good to be true or sellers too anxious to meet up and buy your overpriced Stuff.

  34. I have bought and sold on CL and FBM without problems. Cars, boats, miscellaneous items. Also bought guns in private transactions. In the past I was not concerned, so long as the meet was in a public place. Nowadays I am always concerned. Recently sold a car and posted in the ad that I would only meet at the local Craigslist Safe Trade space, which is the video monitored parking lot of the local police station. Got a buyer, an elderly gentleman who said this would be no problem; he fully understood. We met at the police station and did the deal. Turned out we both were carrying. But some things I would never sell privately. Jewelry, phones, sports car, fancy bicycle or motorcycle. Even carrying it’s too risky. Even in front of the police station.

  35. In every CL transaction I ever made, I always carried concealed. I don’t mention that I am armed, and if the seller behaves in an honorable manner. He need never know that I was armed.

  36. No, NO and HELL NO!!!! Please tell me where the tactical advantage is allowing a stranger into you home or for you to enter their lair? It doesn’t mean crap if your CC because the attacker ALWAYS has the element of suprise on their (who says It’s only one person?)! Drawing against an already drawn gun or blade (21 Foot Rule) is predominately a loosing bet. You risk your life, gun, valuables and vehicle going into someone’s house. They got your keys and address from Lic/Registration doc and can also got to your home: endange family and clean it out as desired. Same thing if they come to your house just simpler.

    Do your transations in a public place. Be armed and have a Backup Guy (also armed) you trust with your life: well away from the transation who writes or videos other party, their vehicle, plates and how it goes down. If it goes very bad, he my approach if there is velling or a designated signal. Might interced or be the best wittness, call 911 and render first aid.

    The question is how much of a deal doss it take to sacrifice your and families tactical security? You might as well answer a Persian Rug ad posted by Al Qaeda in Ramadi.
    There’s nothing you need that bad!

  37. *Ding Dong* “Oh hello, oh I see you’ve got a gunm , do you plan on robbing me?,, “,, “Well yes , yes I do, that’s why I’m here.” ,,, “Just wait a sec, I’ll be right back after I unlock my gunm.,,, Kids do you remember what daddy did with the keyes to the gunm safe?”

  38. I buy new shit from a store or online. It always works or has a warranty, nobody I’m dealing with knows where I live, they are always safe and well lit (I’m packing anyway). Don’t know why anyone would take so many chances to save a couple bucks on something that may be a piece of shit or put your life or family in danger.

  39. I’ve had a number of adventures sometimes as the seller and sometimes as backup; always armed and with backup when possible!

    1 – Bought an upper from a dude in a casino hotel, carried it out in a duffel bag; in and out in 10 min. His friend was taking a shower and emerged from the bathroom to give my buddy and I a mild heart attack.

    2 – Most professional deal goes to selling a dude a moped, met a truck stop, he hands my buddy the money, then crams it into his hatchback Honda.

    3 – Sold a car to a guy for my friend, was alone on this one; during test drive guy states I just need a safe reliable car for my girlfriend, she is 7 months pregnant and I’m going to prison for a felony for 3 years next week. OhOk.jpg. End test drive after that statement and he checks out the car further when we return. He finds a machete that was lost in the trunk under the mat and pulls it out to say what is this? I say toss it on the grass, sorry about that. Just as he’s about to throw it he stops and says “I don’t need anymore problems” then proceeds to use his hoodie to wipe down the blade and handle then tosses it into the grass. He ended up buying the car, all in all easy transaction and nice enough guy.

    4 – This is the only one where I thought shooting was going to start. My buddy sold a transmission to a guy and I was backup. Prospective buy shows up to look at it, in a state of general rage and agitation, paces around asking us questions aggressively and chain smoking, swearing profusely, like enough to make a sailor look like a nun. Sends the guy that drove him to get money out of ATM, his driver is gone for like 10 minutes to get money, which should have taken all of 3 minutes since we lived spitting distance from a gas station, so this continues to make this guy more agitated and animated. His driver finally returns, we get the money, buyer swearing and yelling at driver, and literally throws the transmission into the back seat of this little Hyundai and they speed away.

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