How to Reply to Craigslist Emails

Stay safe when selling goods or making purchases

screen showing Reply function on Craigslist
It's important to stay safe when replying to Craigslist emails.

When you use Craigslist to sell or purchase something, you communicate by sending email to the other person in the transaction. But, to protect buyers' and sellers' privacy, Craigslist keeps email addresses hidden. Even given this security system, you might want to take additional precautions when responding to emails from the service.

How Contacting Someone on Craigslist Works

Craigslist provides a "cover" email address that gets forwarded to the recipient's actual email address. Only Craigslist knows the real email addresses of both parties. This way, if one of the people involved turns out to be untrustworthy, they don't have the other person's email address. When buying or selling items on Craigslist, you communicate through the website, using this two-way email relay.

How to Contact Someone on Craigslist

When you reply to a post (that is, someone has something for sale which you want to buy), you’ll see an address that looks like: abcde-0123456789@sale.craigslist.org. Craigslist gives you the option of copying and pasting this email address into an email application you open on your own, OR you can simply click one of the provided links to easily open your email account.

how to reply on craigslist
Choose your email application from the list, or copy and paste the address into a new message.

What Gets Sent When You Email Someone on Craigslist

When you receive an email that’s responding to an ad, you’ll see an address that looks like: rcc9la26d7534400a6a03514c34f9200@reply.craigslist.org. Though you use your regular email program as you normally would, such an email addresses hides the sender's actual email address (such as janedoe@gmail.com).

When posting an ad, always use the Craigslist proxy email address. Additionally, use only your first name in the Contact Name field.

how to reply on craigslist
When placing an ad on Craigslist, use the mail relay option and use your first name only.

Protect Your Privacy

Keep in mind that, when you communicate using the proxy email address, your real name still shows up, as does signature data, such as your company name, phone number, etc. If you're concerned about your privacy, consider using an alternate email address, such as a Gmail address you use just for purchases.

Other Security Tips

Part of the reason Craigslist uses the email system it does is to prevent scams and the distribution of your private information. But it can only do so much. Do your part by remembering not to click on links within any email you receive, unless you trust the sender. Know that emails can be doctored to look like they’re from a particular sender (such as Craigslist). When in doubt, always contact the sender first to confirm validity.

Additionally, once you’re in contact with a buyer or seller, you may want to exchange mobile numbers so you can send text messages to make the transaction easier. While the vast majority of Craigslist users are trustworthy, go with your instincts on whether you want to offer this information. Also, remember to use personal security habits like meeting in a neutral, public location, such as a coffee shop or grocery store parking lot.