Robbers using Craigslist to find YOU!
Several Craigslist users have been robbed at gunpoint by
individuals who place phony ads on Craigslist. Some advertise as
sellers and others as buyers but the outcome has been the same. In
the last month 5 robberies in the Bay area were linked to ads on
Craigslist. Fortunately none of the victims were hurt, but they did
loose hundreds of dollars in cash and property.
These cases highlight he inherent dangers of meeting strangers to complete a transaction when the initially contact was through the internet. They underscore the need to take precautions when meeting such a stranger for the first time. The meeting or transaction should take place in a well trafficked public place to reduce the risk of being robbed, assaulted, or raped.
The latest robbery was Sunday night when two people from Pleasanton posted an advert on Craigslist selling hooded jackets. Shortly after the ad went public, a prospective buyer contacted them to buy the jackets. A meeting was set up in a Target department store parking lot in Walnut Creek, according to information given by the Walnut Creek police.
The police report goes on to say that around 8:20 pm, two individuals drove up, one appeared to be 16 and the other 19 years old. The transaction instantly soured when one of the suspects pulled out a gun and pointed it at the sellers saying "This is how we're going to do this!", then he proceeded to take the jackets.
Before driving off the suspects flashed a gang sign and yelled "This is West Pittsburg," a reference to their neighborhood, the police believe. No arrests have been made in this case thus far.
In San Jose there were a greater degree of crimes associated with Craigslist ads. In each of the cases the victims met with a man to complete a transaction but the assailant had other plans. Each time the victims were robbed of all their cash and small electronics that they had at the time. Each time the victims met with the man in front of an apartment building. The police still have not announced any arrests in this case.
Unfortunately the Bay area is not the only place where Craigslist is leaving victims. Last April in Boston, two men responded to a listing for a 1995 Honda Civic for sale. When the buyers met the seller at the designated location, the suspect directed the two buyers to go behind a building to look at the car. At this point the two men were forced to the ground at gun point, robbed of all their cash and possessions, before the assailant fled the scene, according to the Boston Police.
In May of last year in Vancouver Wash, a man answered a listing on Craigslist for a female companion. The man was lured into a park by this purported prostitute, where he was confronted and robbed by three individuals. Fortunately in this case, according to the Vancouver police, a man and two women were later arrested.
This rash of violent crimes sheds a much dimmer light on the so called tightly knit community of Craigslist. Craigslist is in fact no stranger to crime. Police have arrested individuals advertising on Craigslist for everything from Drugs, to prostitutes, to fencing stolen property.
Scam artists routinely prey on Craigslist users (victims) with scams like cashing counterfeit checks for them in return for some payment. The checks later turn out to be fraudulent and the victim gets stuck holding the bag. Usually having to pay the bank back for funds that never existed. Another common scam is to advertise products or services, and require that the victim pay for said services or products in advance for later delivery, which never happens.
To avoid being ripped off the police advise that you meet in a well lit, and very public place. Also never cash checks for anyone and never pay for something in advance. Bear in mind that the scams range from the very simple, by lazy scammers who don't want to put much effort into the con, to professional con men who create really elaborate schemes. Some schemes may take a while before they become clear, but by that point many people may have been victimized. If you wish to use Craigslist you have to stay sharp and always on your toes. If you don't want to have to put that much effort into every dealing you have, it's better to use a brick and mortar store front and avoid Craigslist all together.