This week an SIU-Edwardsville college student was killed by a person wanting to buy his car, which was posted for sale on Craigslist. The killer contacted the student and the two exchanged a series of texts before meeting. Police are still searching for answers to the circumstances and the motive behind this horrible crime.
Reports of crimes against people using these online sale sites, like Craigslist or eBay, are definitely on the rise. Just a few months ago an elderly couple from Georgia was killed while trying to buy a car through a Craigslist ad. Criminals prey on overly trusting victims and they do use these online selling sites as a way to gain access to people, their money, and their possessions.
But, for every terrible news story we hear about an online sale gone wrong, there are thousands of transactions that happen successfully every day. People like using Craigslist because it’s easy, geographically specific, free to post ads and, in most cases, you can deal with a local person – thus eliminating the cost of shipping.
People have been buying and selling their unused or unwanted stuff for years. Whether you do it through an estate sale, a yard sale, an ad in the local paper, a bulletin board or use an online selling site – the rules of engagement remain the same. Use common sense.
At Casey & Devoti, we care about your safety. If you use an online site to buy or sell items, here are some helpful hints to keep you safe:
- Talk to the person over the phone and ask qualifying questions before agreeing to meet at any location. Nefarious people can hide behind texts and emails. Hearing their voice and how they answer questions will help you determine if they are someone you want to do business with.
- Insist to meet at a public place such as a police station or a well-lit big box store parking lot.
- Don’t go alone. Bring a person with you to witness the transaction and keep an eye out for your safety.
- Bring your cell phone. Inform another person of your plans – where you are going, who you are meeting, what you are selling, and who is going with you.
- Always meet during daylight hours.
- Do not meet in a secluded area.
- Do not invite strangers into your home, and do not go to theirs.
- Be cautious when buying/selling high value items. Accept only cash or money orders.
- Do not give out any personal or financial information. Craigslist allows you to use a Craigslist provided proxy email. But, if you reply to an email inquiry – now that person has your personal email. If you do not want to give out your personal email address, use a disposable email from a site like Mailinator or GishPuppy.
- Never use money wiring services for payment. This is the payment method of choice for criminals.
- Check a buyer or seller’s history before doing business with them. Most people know eBay has a rating system for buyers and sellers. Most people don’t know that Craigslist also has a rating system called Craigguard.com, which works similar to the eBay format of providing feedback after a transaction.
- Never buy anything before viewing the item in person. And, likewise, be leery of a person wanting to buy something from you sight unseen.
- GPS-enabled smartphones put a geotag on photos taken with your phone –which has the location of where the photos were taken. The Craigslist site may or may not remove this information before uploading a photo. You should always remove geotags from your photos before uploading to online selling site or any other photo sharing site. You can use a site called Pixelgarde.com.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it normally is.