Millions of users buy and sell products, find roommates, and look for jobs on Craigslist on a daily basis; unfortunately, Craigslist has a dark side that the company feverishly tries to hide from the public. This week Craigslist hit an unwanted milestone; 101 murders linked directly to people using advertisements on the website.
According to Advanced Interactive Media Group and reported by the Washington Post on Monday, the 100-murders mark was surpassed three weeks ago in Indiana, when a 22-year-old man killed a couple who had arranged to buy his car via Craigslist.
“Their attitude is, ‘We’re safe, we have billions of safe transactions’ — sure they do,” said Peter Zollman, the founding principal of the AIM Group, about Craigslist. “But every single day, there are also rapes, robberies and murders linked to Craigslist. And that is a serious issue.”
While Craigslist maintains they cannot be held responsible for crimes that are committed as a result of transactions gone wrong, Craigslist knows they have a huge problem, and even make millions of dollars every year knowingly promoting criminal activity.
Is Craigslist a Haven for Criminals and Criminal Behavior?
Back in 2010, under pressure from law enforcement officials, Craigslist supposedly shut down its “adult services” section – a section of its website where they allowed prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, and child sex traffickers to post ads on their website for a fee. But as soon as they closed the adults section down, they allowed these same people to move to other sections of the website and place ads in categories such as “therapeutic services”.
Since that change in 2010, certain sections of Craigslist — like the personals section — have become a haven for drug dealers, prostitution rings, and even child slavery and human-trafficking rings. In fact, the attorney general of Ohio dubbed Craigslist “the Wal-Mart of child sex trafficking.”
With Craigslist profiting from, and allowing so many dirt bags on its website, it’s not a shocker that this criminal element has infiltrated other areas of the site. Unfortunately, people who come to the site innocently attempting to sell a car, find an apartment, or even just searching the jobs section, have fallen prey to criminals who Craigslist knows targets users of its site.
Back in 2013, I wrote about National Guard Sergeant First Class Jim Vester, a Veteran who was killed after using Craigslist to buy a Christmas present for his parents. Vester, who was attempting to buy a used iPad that he found in the For Sale section of the site, was killed by two brothers who used the site to rob unknowing victims.
Robberies are a huge problem on Craigslist.
“It’s a real problem,” Juan Perez, deputy director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, told the Miami Herald. “We’ve had people advertise cars on some of these Web sites. People come with the money, and they rob them.”
If you’re going to buy or sell on Craigslist, there are some safety precautions you need to take.
Always Research the Seller’s Information: Don’t ever meet someone without getting a phone number and an address. Once you have that information, you should then scour the web searching for anything that looks out of the ordinary. Look at the person’s Facebook page; search their name, phone number and address on Google; and make sure you know exactly who you are going to meet.
Ask Questions Before Ever Meeting: Ask as many questions as you can before going to buy the product.
Ask things like:
- Why are you selling the product?
- Where did you get it from?
- Ask specific questions that someone who owned the product would know. (Battery life, mileage per gallon, anything specific to that product.)
If the seller can’t answer your basic questions, there is a good chance that he doesn’t actually have the product in the ad. Chances are it is probably a setup to rob you.
Don’t buy from Sellers who won’t give you a Phone Number: This is a HUGE RED FLAG. If they don’t list their phone number, or won’t give it to you after contacting them via email, the seller usually has something to hide.
Meet in a public place: Criminals don’t want witnesses; meeting in a public place like a coffee shop or cafe will go a long way in helping to ensure your safety. Most of the criminals on Craigslist are looking for easy targets; they are not very likely to rob you in a coffee shop full of people.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: A lot of these Craigslist scams are pretty easy to spot. If the deal sounds too good to be true, you are better off passing. If the price is half the price of similar items on the site, you are either buying a stolen product or on your way to meet someone who is about to forcibly take your cash.
Never go to a secondary location: If you arrive at the predetermined meeting point and the seller asks you to go to another place or follow him somewhere, this should raise some serious red flags. There is no reason for a seller to ask you to go somewhere else.
Don’t ever go alone. You should always have someone with you who can watch your back.
Show up early: If you are meeting in a public location, show up early and scope out the area. Watch for the seller, and make sure everything looks legit. If you have even the slightest concern that something seems out of place, trust your instincts and leave.
Don’t ever place ads that show your home or contain Meta Data inside your Photos: Those innocent photos you’ve been posting might not be as innocent as you think; in fact, they most likely contain hidden personal data that criminals can use to track you down. Read our article on protecting your digital photos.
Always have and carry protection; Read our articles on:
- Tips for Buying your First Gun
- The Pros & Cons of Gun Ownership
- Why you need to rethink your Defensive Strategies