But how do things like this happen in the first place? Foolishness leads to senseless crimes like these. Don't get me wrong here. My heart goes out to the family and friends involved with the man who was killed, but this is a crime that was 100% preventable. In order to identify what you can do to avoid a situation like this, we first need to focus on the mistakes that led to this tragedy.
1. Inviting the potential buyer in your home.
2. Being completely unarmed.
3. Having your family present.
4. Not meeting at a neutral location.
5. Allowing yourself to be overwhelmed.
5. Allowing yourself to be overwhelmed.
All of these 5 points tie in very closely, so if I seem to jump around a bit, it's just because of the very direct relationship of each point.
First off, when posting an ad in any classifieds, be it Craigslist, Little Nickel, The Daily World, or whatever, be very careful. Not all people are like you. In fact, there are many creeps out there looking for people to exploit and take advantage of for their gain, at your expense. Don't be too liberal with personal information. For instance, don't put your home address in the ad, or give out last names and such. When I post an ad on Craigslist, I simply give instructions to contact me through the Craigslist reply feature. That way, I can screen who contacts me directly or not. It may seem like a pain in the ass, but I'd rather deal in email only until I know the buyer is serious. Then I'll give my phone number and first name only.
When you do get a potential buyer, be sure they are a serious buyer. Don't allow wishy washy people to look at your stuff. If the money's not there, then we don't care about you. Tell them to go pound sand. Only deal with people who are very interested and have the money to cover the cost of your item. Don't deal with people who tell you they need a week or so to get the rest of the money. Look, if you don't have the money, then you obviously aren't serious. First come, first served.
When you hammer out a date and time to meet, figure out a location that works for YOU!!! Look, you're the seller here. Don't let the buyer dictate where you will meet. If they want your item that bad, and they are legitimate, they will come to you. That said, meet in a neutral location, preferably during a busy time of the day when you know a lot of people and cars will be around. In the case of the man who was killed, he should have met the potential "buyers" at the police station or Post Office. DO NOT give your address to anyone and don't let them come to your house. If in the event that coming to your home cannot be avoided, DO NOT LET THEM IN!!! They can wait at the door. If you are selling something that is difficult to move by yourself, get it out in the garage or in the driveway prior to the buying party's arrival. You want to be in an area you can control.
If at all possible, have someone else with you. I know this isn't ideal in many cases. That's why you meet at a neutral location with lots of potential witnesses. It's like having a second person with you. If you must have someone come to your house, ask your buddy to come over for a bit. It never hurts to have backup, especially if your buddy looks tough. He doesn't necessarily have to be present, but close enough to hear you scream if something happens. This being said, don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed. I know from experience that it only takes 2 people to load a dishwasher into a truck. If you are selling a dishwasher, and about 5 guys show up, be wary. If you are selling something of high value; i.e. a computer, diamond, camera, guns, etc, it should raise a red flag if a car rolls up and all the doors open and people start piling out. Two people in the buyer party is okay, but get more than that and they are starting to push it. Three people can easily overwhelm a single person, especially if said person was my 5' tall 110 lb wife. If the scene looks shaky, call the police.
If possible, don't have your kids around when your transaction takes place. Kids can be a huge distraction at a time when your concentration must be on the transaction and the person/people buying what you are selling. Have a friend pick them up or have a friend come over and entertain them out of sight and sound if possible.
This will seem weird, but I never enter into a transaction unless I am appropriately armed. Sound paranoid? Tell that to the wife of the husband who was shot and killed after inviting hoodlums into his home after letting his guard down while trying to sell a diamond ring. Your buyer never has to know you have a gun. Keep it concealed. If you are at home, keep it handy, but keep it hidden. I normally carry my Ruger SP101 with me with my LCP as backup. Look, when you put an ad out, you don't know who is going to come calling. It may just be some guy or girl looking to buy what you have. In all of my transactions, that is exactly the case. Many were actually quite friendly and offered a great experience of selling and chatting. Other times, it was a simple "here's the money, thank you" deal. Quick and easy. But heaven forbid something like what happened to the poor family happens to me. As long as there are creeps, druggies, weirdos, serial killers, and other idiots out there, I'm keeping my piece in close proximity to my body.
Many of us control who comes into our lives. We do it when we pick friends, pick jobs, pick churches, pick events to attend, what places we go for entertainment, etc. But you can't always decide who comes into and leaves your life 100% of the time. Sometimes, you will get a complete shit-heel that wants to screw you over or do you harm. It is your responsibility to insure that you are not taken advantage of, raped, held hostage, stolen from, or murdered. In most cases, common sense wins the day.
Good luck and safe happy selling!