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Author Topic: Tips for local transactions  (Read 305289 times)
21after2
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January 18, 2013, 11:35:02 PM
 #1

I was writing this as a reply to someone else's topic and it got kind of lengthy, so I decided to make it into a topic instead.

The intention of this topic is to help new buyers and sellers in the BitCoin community who are looking to meet up and trade locally. I've done a lot of local trades and sales over the years, so I'm hoping that my experiences can help beginners by giving them ideas on how to trade safely. For this purpose I've separated my advice into three sections: meeting for trades, advice for buying, and advice for selling.

I've tried to format everything in a clear and concise manner to make this topic more readable. I'm open to suggestions for edits and additions to help make this guide as useful as possible.

Hope this guide helps anyone looking to start trading locally!

Note: Some names/locations I mention are US based, so I apologize if they're irrelevant for your location. The theories behind this topic should be fine regardless of country.



Meeting:
There are three main things I look for in meeting places:
  • Public Location - Are there plenty of people around?
  • WiFi Access - Is there free or cheap public WiFi access in the area?
  • Security - Are there security cameras or security guards in the area?

Public Location:
Public locations are like Local Trading 101: it is always better to meet in a public place. Scammers and muggers are a lot less likely to try anything with witnesses around. You can usually find these people early on by simply requesting a public meeting place: they want to meet their victims alone.

WiFi:
Places like McDonalds, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and many local coffee shops offer free WiFi access. A lot of hotels offer WiFi as well, but usually not for free or to non-customers. Bring a laptop or tablet with you if you have one so you can check transaction details and confirmations. Depending on what you're buying/selling/trading, having a computer to do some last second research on item values can never hurt if you're worried about getting the short end of the stick.

Security:
A location with security cameras adds an extra layer of security to a trade. If the other party does get away with stealing from or scamming you, you'll have physical evidence in a recording that can help the authorities track the offender down and bring him to justice. Security guards can help set your mind at ease if you're concerned that you might get mugged: muggers are a lot less likely to rob you if there's a guard with a gun a few yards away. A guard can easily step in and save you if a mugger does start attacking you.

My personal recommendation would be to meet at a mall, if there's one in your area. Malls have tons of security measures to help protect you as you make your trade, and many malls have WiFi access across the entire property: there's a good chance that one of the mall's stores has WiFi access even if the mall itself doesn't. Banks are a good choice too: banks have great security, and some bigger banks have WiFi access as well.

Buying:
There are three things I want to cover about buying in-person:
  • Reviewing Your Purchase
  • Paying with BitCoin
  • Paying with Cash

Reviewing Your Purchase:
For buying items, remember that there's a lot you can't tell about something just from pictures. Make sure to look the item over carefully and make sure everything is in working condition/described condition before you pay the seller. A seller who is unwilling or nervous about letting you check out an item may know something about the item he doesn't want you to find out. It's a good idea to meet during the day or in a well lit area so you can see everything clearly. Don't be afraid to ask questions if anything feels off and don't feel obligated to complete a sale you're uncomfortable with.

Paying with BitCoin:
One of the easiest ways to pay in BitCoin in person is with a mobile wallet app from a smartphone. Blockchain a mobile wallet app for Android and iOS. It's an online wallet, so I wouldn't recommend it for long-time storage: strictly transactions. Once I know how much I need to pay for an item I put that much in the wallet, and maybe 1 or 2 BTC more just in case there's a last second price change, and when I get home I immediately transfer any leftover funds to a more secure wallet. Blockchain works the same as any other client: enter the seller's payment address and the amount of BTC for the sale to send payment. Blockchain also has a QR scanner built in if the seller has a QR code address.

As a side note, I use an iPhone and Blockchain is, to my knowledge, the only wallet app for iOS without jailbreaking your phone. I have no knowledge about jailbreaking or Android apps for alternatives to Blockchain, but you can always do your research here on the forum or on the BitCoin wiki to find an app that works for you. You can also use your laptop, if you have it with you, to access your wallet and pay the seller. I recommend creating a brand new wallet for the transaction, especially if you're the paranoid type. Better safe than sorry, right? Wink

Paying with Cash:
This section focuses on buying BitCoins. One of the more common OTC transactions is buying BitCoin with cash. If you're buying BTC, you need to give the seller a payment address to receive your funds. You can use your mobile wallet to receive the funds, which you can then transfer to a safer wallet when you get home, or you can write down or print out a wallet address for the seller to send the BTC to. If you do the latter method, make sure to confirm the transaction before you part ways: use a laptop to check your wallet and confirm the payment or have a trusted friend/family member monitor the wallet and contact you with confirmation of the funds.

Selling:
There are a few things to review for sellers:
  • Terms of the Sale or Trade
  • Accepting BitCoin Payment
  • Accepting Cash Payment
  • Other Forms of Payment

Terms of the Sale or Trade:
If you and the buyer have agreed to the terms of the trade ahead of time (as in what is being sold and for what price), I recommend printing out a copy of the agreement or correspondence (emails, forum posts, etc.). I've had experiences where the buyer tries to change the deal at the last minute or claims that I agreed to a lower price for the sale. Printing out what you offered and he accepted will back you up and help you get the price you asked for. You can also take a picture of these correspondences with your phone or digital camera if you don't have a printer, or use a laptop/tablet to bring them up if WiFi access is available.

Accepting BitCoin Payment:
Write down or print your payment address and bring it with you: I also recommend having a QR code address printed for buyers who use mobile wallets. Make sure you have a way to confirm payment before you part ways with the buyer. Use a laptop/tablet to check on the transaction for confirmations as well as affirming that the buyer paid the correct amount. You could also have a trusted friend/family member monitor your wallet and contact you with confirmation if WiFi is unavailable. Mobile app wallets may be able to confirm transactions on the spot, negating the need for WiFi access and a computer if you have a 3G/4G phone: the Blockchain app I mentioned can do this for you.

Accepting Cash Payment:
The main concern with cash payment is counterfeit bills. Most banks and retail locations keep special markers at the registers that can show if a bill is real or counterfeit. Here's an example on Amazon. These markers are a cheap investment if you're worried about receiving counterfeit money. I've also found them at office supply stores like Office Depot and Staples for around $5-$15. Keep one in your pocket and mark the bills before you finish the sale. Make sure you explain to the buyer what you're doing so they don't freak out on you: I've had that happen before.

Other Forms of Payment:
The are two things to remember about alternative forms of payment: one; try to agree with the buyer ahead of time about the use of non-cash/non-BTC payments, and two; do your research on the payment method to make sure you know what you're getting and how it works (and how easily, if possible, it can be forged or reversed). This forum is full of warnings about certain payment methods for good reason. BitCoin purchases seem to be the bigger targets for chargeback fraud, so keep yourself educated when you're selling BTC in person.

There is one final warning I would like to give in this section: do not accept personal checks. One of the first in-person sales I ever did was for a personal check ($450), and I'm sure you can guess how that went simply by the way I've brought it up. Another check sale a few months after that one was paid for with a stolen checkbook and I had police show up at my house asking about the sale so they could find the guy. If you absolutely must accept a sale by check, I would recommend completing the sale at a bank so you can cash the check on the spot.

Other Tips:
This section is for good advice submitted by other posters. Thanks for your contributions!
  • Make sure to specify your expectations in advance. Confirm the time and place of meeting and make sure that both parties have everything on hand to complete the sale or trade. ~ Stephen Gornick
  • Strength in numbers: bringing along a second person can be an excellent source of additional security and protection. ~ Vernon715
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Stephen Gornick
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January 19, 2013, 07:02:24 AM
 #2

The intention of this topic is to help new buyers and sellers in the BitCoin community who are looking to meet up and trade locally. I've done a lot of local trades and sales over the years, so I'm hoping that my experiences can help beginners by giving them ideas on how to trade safely.

Fantastic info, thank you for providing this.

Personal safety does need to be top of mind, as is also emphasized on ShadowLife's post:

Quote
Once you received the money, you have to make sure that you don’t leave the protected public places with the money to avoid getting robbed after the deal
- http://shadowlife.cc/2012/11/secure-and-professional-bitcoin-otc-exchanges

I haven't completed all that many in-person trades myself but more than once now I have been asked to sell for cash an amount of bitcoins larger than any amount I would be selling by myself.  But had I previously gotten in contact with other traders in my area a larger trade amount probably could have been arranged since that would allow me to have to trade only up to my personal max level and then also there would be two or more of us present when the cash traded hands.

As far as buying bitcoins from an untrusted stranger, the risk of double spending (due to either a Race attack or a Finney attack) is significant enough to require at least one confirmation (or a Green address transfer or a service such as a LocalBitcoins "Transaction" where the funds released to the buyer would always be already-confirmed funds).

One challenge with in-person trading is with communications and coordinating the meet.  Unless you are already planning on spending a couple hours at a coffee shop or wherever, make sure to specify in advance your expectations otherwise you'll often be stuck waiting for your trading partner to show, oftentimes in vain.

For a recent trade the buyer arrived on time but he needed to get cash from an ATM.  It was only then that he learned that his bank account has a low maximum daily withdrawal amount, leaving me holding more bitcoins (and less cash) than I had planned.  Had I confirmed that the buyer had cash in-hand before even setting a meeting time and location is something that would have saved me time, money and the resulting headache.

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January 19, 2013, 11:46:53 PM
 #3

The intention of this topic is to help new buyers and sellers in the BitCoin community who are looking to meet up and trade locally. I've done a lot of local trades and sales over the years, so I'm hoping that my experiences can help beginners by giving them ideas on how to trade safely.

Fantastic info, thank you for providing this.

Personal safety does need to be top of mind, as is also emphasized on ShadowLife's post:

Quote
Once you received the money, you have to make sure that you don’t leave the protected public places with the money to avoid getting robbed after the deal
- http://shadowlife.cc/2012/11/secure-and-professional-bitcoin-otc-exchanges

I haven't completed all that many in-person trades myself but more than once now I have been asked to sell for cash an amount of bitcoins larger than any amount I would be selling by myself.  But had I previously gotten in contact with other traders in my area a larger trade amount probably could have been arranged since that would allow me to have to trade only up to my personal max level and then also there would be two or more of us present when the cash traded hands.

As far as buying bitcoins from an untrusted stranger, the risk of double spending (due to either a Race attack or a Finney attack) is significant enough to require at least one confirmation (or a Green address transfer or a service such as a LocalBitcoins "Transaction" where the funds released to the buyer would always be already-confirmed funds).

One challenge with in-person trading is with communications and coordinating the meet.  Unless you are already planning on spending a couple hours at a coffee shop or wherever, make sure to specify in advance your expectations otherwise you'll often be stuck waiting for your trading partner to show, oftentimes in vain.

For a recent trade the buyer arrived on time but he needed to get cash from an ATM.  It was only then that he learned that his bank account has a low maximum daily withdrawal amount, leaving me holding more bitcoins (and less cash) than I had planned.  Had I confirmed that the buyer had cash in-hand before even setting a meeting time and location is something that would have saved me time, money and the resulting headache.


Very good points. I added a section for tips provided from other posters and put some of your info in the original post. You put it perfectly: specify your expectations in advance to avoid any unnecessary headaches. Poor planning results in poor trades. I've also had insufficient funds issues with in-person trades before, and it's quite a pain to deal with.
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January 21, 2013, 07:33:05 AM
 #4

Stickied. Great tips for local transactions, and should help to keep new users safe.

Thanks!  Grin

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January 21, 2013, 10:36:02 PM
 #5

Stickied. Great tips for local transactions, and should help to keep new users safe.

Thanks!  Grin

Thanks for the sticky! Really hope this advice can help everyone out!
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February 16, 2013, 11:06:14 PM
 #6

My tip is to meet at some sort of table and set up a camera to monitor the transaction.

For extra security, have the camera recording to some sort of remote server. 

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February 20, 2013, 06:42:10 AM
 #7

My tip is to meet at some sort of table and set up a camera to monitor the transaction.

For extra security, have the camera recording to some sort of remote server. 

If you intend to record video or audio then as a professional courtesy you should disclose that in advance.  Many trading for cash are doing so with the preference for privacy and you recording that transaction conflicts with that.

Additionally, there are unintended consequences.  Your camera setup will draw attention from bystanders and thus increase the risk of a potential robber seeing a wad of cash change hands -- something that might trigger that person's split-second decision to relieve you of that cash.

If you are trading a larger amount of funds it makes sense that you might want to use some of the same tools that would be employed by any financial organization dealing with similar amounts.  For instance, to confirm the cash contains no counterfeits involves having adequate lighting and the liberty to raise each bill to the light to inspect the security features.  For a small amount that can be done inconspicuously even in a coffee shop, but try doing that from a sample of fifty bills and you'll stick out like a sore thumb.  I don't know the threshold but trading a couple hundred dollars worth of coins is going to be a night and day difference from a trade involving a thousand dollars or more.

Remember too the saying that you don't bring a knife to a gunfight.  If you are thinking a camera will protect you from physical harm, you might be projecting too much significance with that mode of defense.

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February 20, 2013, 11:30:25 PM
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My tip is to meet at some sort of table and set up a camera to monitor the transaction.

For extra security, have the camera recording to some sort of remote server. 

If you intend to record video or audio then as a professional courtesy you should disclose that in advance.  Many trading for cash are doing so with the preference for privacy and you recording that transaction conflicts with that.

Additionally, there are unintended consequences.  Your camera setup will draw attention from bystanders and thus increase the risk of a potential robber seeing a wad of cash change hands -- something that might trigger that person's split-second decision to relieve you of that cash.

If you are trading a larger amount of funds it makes sense that you might want to use some of the same tools that would be employed by any financial organization dealing with similar amounts.  For instance, to confirm the cash contains no counterfeits involves having adequate lighting and the liberty to raise each bill to the light to inspect the security features.  For a small amount that can be done inconspicuously even in a coffee shop, but try doing that from a sample of fifty bills and you'll stick out like a sore thumb.  I don't know the threshold but trading a couple hundred dollars worth of coins is going to be a night and day difference from a trade involving a thousand dollars or more.

Remember too the saying that you don't bring a knife to a gunfight.  If you are thinking a camera will protect you from physical harm, you might be projecting too much significance with that mode of defense.

Fair points. Bringing your own camera may not be necessary if you're meeting at a place with plenty of security. Places like malls have security cameras so you don't have to bring your own. Wink

And I agree with Stephen: if you do decide to bring your own camera, make sure to okay it with the other trader before you set everything up to record. Certain jurisdictions may have privacy laws that could open you up to legal trouble, and you wouldn't want to provoke an argument with someone who values his privacy. However, I could see the mention of bringing a camera being a preventive method: like I mentioned about the public locations, a camera may cause a mugger to change his mind about the deal, preventing the crime before it happens. I wouldn't rely on it as a deterrent though.

To Stephen: like I said in my original post, it would probably be easier to buy a marker that can detect false bills to bring with you. Less conspicuous than lifting large volumes of currency up to the lights and squinting at them. Wink
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February 22, 2013, 12:46:38 AM
 #9

My tip is to meet at some sort of table and set up a camera to monitor the transaction.

For extra security, have the camera recording to some sort of remote server. 

If you intend to record video or audio then as a professional courtesy you should disclose that in advance.  Many trading for cash are doing so with the preference for privacy and you recording that transaction conflicts with that.

Additionally, there are unintended consequences.  Your camera setup will draw attention from bystanders and thus increase the risk of a potential robber seeing a wad of cash change hands -- something that might trigger that person's split-second decision to relieve you of that cash.

If you are trading a larger amount of funds it makes sense that you might want to use some of the same tools that would be employed by any financial organization dealing with similar amounts.  For instance, to confirm the cash contains no counterfeits involves having adequate lighting and the liberty to raise each bill to the light to inspect the security features.  For a small amount that can be done inconspicuously even in a coffee shop, but try doing that from a sample of fifty bills and you'll stick out like a sore thumb.  I don't know the threshold but trading a couple hundred dollars worth of coins is going to be a night and day difference from a trade involving a thousand dollars or more.

Remember too the saying that you don't bring a knife to a gunfight.  If you are thinking a camera will protect you from physical harm, you might be projecting too much significance with that mode of defense.

Fair points. Bringing your own camera may not be necessary if you're meeting at a place with plenty of security. Places like malls have security cameras so you don't have to bring your own. Wink

And I agree with Stephen: if you do decide to bring your own camera, make sure to okay it with the other trader before you set everything up to record. Certain jurisdictions may have privacy laws that could open you up to legal trouble, and you wouldn't want to provoke an argument with someone who values his privacy. However, I could see the mention of bringing a camera being a preventive method: like I mentioned about the public locations, a camera may cause a mugger to change his mind about the deal, preventing the crime before it happens. I wouldn't rely on it as a deterrent though.

To Stephen: like I said in my original post, it would probably be easier to buy a marker that can detect false bills to bring with you. Less conspicuous than lifting large volumes of currency up to the lights and squinting at them. Wink

Great points, but i was thinking that the camera would be useful if you were in a retail location w/o cameras, like starbucks.

I also assumed that you would let the other person know about the camera.

To avoid drawing attention you could use some sort of low-profile camera, like a button camera.

Also, if you are trading large sums of money/goods it could make sense to have another person with you that the person that you are trading with doesn't know about, who could step in and break up any conflict that might arise.

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February 22, 2013, 01:08:37 AM
 #10

Also, if you are trading large sums of money/goods it could make sense to have another person with you that the person that you are trading with doesn't know about, who could step in and break up any conflict that might arise.

This is a really good piece of advice: strength in numbers. Mentioning a second person could also help deter potential muggers who won't want to deal with two people. And, like you said, simply having a friend sitting a table away can help if a dangerous situation arises.

I would personally disclose an additional person to the other trader (either in advance or during the meeting), but that's up to the discretion of the trader. I certainly don't see the harm in keeping it quiet, since it hopefully wouldn't be a sour trade in the first place.

Added to the user tips. Wink
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February 22, 2013, 01:14:16 AM
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To Stephen: like I said in my original post, it would probably be easier to buy a marker that can detect false bills to bring with you. Less conspicuous than lifting large volumes of currency up to the lights and squinting at them. Wink

Markers don't detect that bills have been bleached and reprinted.

 - http://www.myfoxny.com/story/19100813/man-suspected-to-be-using-counterfeit-bills-in-nj

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February 22, 2013, 04:10:27 AM
 #12

To Stephen: like I said in my original post, it would probably be easier to buy a marker that can detect false bills to bring with you. Less conspicuous than lifting large volumes of currency up to the lights and squinting at them. Wink

Markers don't detect that bills have been bleached and reprinted.

 - http://www.myfoxny.com/story/19100813/man-suspected-to-be-using-counterfeit-bills-in-nj

Hadn't heard of that before. Good advice to know though!
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February 22, 2013, 04:44:00 AM
 #13

Meeting:
There are three main things I look for in meeting places:
  • Public Location - Are there plenty of people around?
  • WiFi Access - Is there free or cheap public WiFi access in the area?
  • Security - Are there security cameras or security guards in the area?

Public Location:
Public locations are like Local Trading 101: it is always better to meet in a public place.

i'm sure your post is helpful for some people, and it does seem like a good write-up, however your list is pretty much the exact opposite of what I would look for in a trade

  • Private location - no rubber-neckers
  • WiFi Access unnecessary as everyone where i'm from has a data allowance on their phone
  • Big brother - Are there no security cameras in the area?

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February 22, 2013, 04:53:29 AM
 #14

I have a data plan phone too, but WiFi works a lot quicker. I need to upgrade to LTE, lol!

Anyways, it seems like you value privacy in your transactions, which is fine. As long as you feel safe in your trades, go with what's comfortable for you. Wink
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March 02, 2013, 01:36:32 AM
 #15

Meeting:
There are three main things I look for in meeting places:
  • Public Location - Are there plenty of people around?
  • WiFi Access - Is there free or cheap public WiFi access in the area?
  • Security - Are there security cameras or security guards in the area?

Public Location:
Public locations are like Local Trading 101: it is always better to meet in a public place.

i'm sure your post is helpful for some people, and it does seem like a good write-up, however your list is pretty much the exact opposite of what I would look for in a trade

  • Private location - no rubber-neckers
  • WiFi Access unnecessary as everyone where i'm from has a data allowance on their phone
  • Big brother - Are there no security cameras in the area?




This would make sense if you know the person, or are trading something flash/illegal.

However, if neither of these things is true, being on camera would go a long way to help w/security.



Added to the user tips. Wink

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March 02, 2013, 08:58:29 AM
 #16

This would make sense if you know the person, or are trading something flash/illegal.

However, if neither of these things is true, being on camera would go a long way to help w/security.

i agree cameras would help with security, but that's a tradeoff between security and privacy

i'd generally go for the latter myself
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March 04, 2013, 02:35:27 PM
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That's my favourite method to buy BTC, meeting up with the seller (also,the safest!)

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March 04, 2013, 06:52:02 PM
 #18

This would make sense if you know the person, or are trading something flash/illegal.

However, if neither of these things is true, being on camera would go a long way to help w/security.

i agree cameras would help with security, but that's a tradeoff between security and privacy

i'd generally go for the latter myself



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March 25, 2013, 09:37:47 PM
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I'd highly recommend an openly-carried Glock 19 or similar -- if legal in your area, of course Smiley (Thankfully, it is here)

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March 29, 2013, 08:12:44 AM
 #20

Here's a report of a face-to-face transaction gone bad.

In this instance, a person selling headphones through Craigslist was contacted and a face-to-face trade (at a McDonalds) was arranged.  Except it didn't go according to the buyer's plan and the seller left with both the headphones and the bitcoins:

I just got robbed blind of bitcoins - in person. I'm feeling like I've lost trust in the usability of the currency and looking for advice.
 - http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/1b89wm

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