It’s far better to know these safety lessons from true crime stories and not need them, than to need them and not know. Learn how criminals trick you - and how to stop them.
See Teen Abuse.
Predators hunt for prey in newspaper and online ads (a.k.a. “classified ads” or “want-ads”). Such person-to-person ads have always been risky for both buyers AND sellers. The old saying, “Caveat Emptor” (Let the Buyer Beware), should also add “Let the SELLER Beware.” Any time two strangers meet for a business transaction, especially if they meet in a private place, either one is very vulnerable to a violent crime.A man saw an ad on Craigslist for a big-screen TV selling for half its value. But when he got to the seller’s house, he got a gun in his face. A couple went to see a car posted on Craigslist. They didn't bring any money, so the woman was held hostage as the man was taken to an ATM. Want-ad robberies happen every day. The victims arrive at empty homes in normal surroundings or parking lots and walk into a trap.
Typical Police Tips For Buying Off Craigslist
1. Meet in public places, like a bank or store with security cameras and a lot of people.
2. Never take cash when meeting a stranger.
3. Have a friend wait nearby with a cellphone so they can contact police, if needed.
4. Never go into a house if someone yells for you to come inside.
5. Watch your surroundings and leave if something seems suspicious.
Critique: The first three tips are not very practical:
1 a. Will a legitimate seller bring a big-screen TV or any big and bulky item to a public place for you? Not likely.
1 b. If a seller is willing to do so, you’ll be meeting a total stranger in a parking lot outback (where it’s less congested – with few, if any, witnesses or security cameras nearby). Is he really a seller? Why risk it?
1 c. How can you test an electrical appliance in a parking lot? You can’t.
2. A stranger will likely insist on cash (checks and even "certified Money Orders" can be bogus). Only a fool would take a wad of cash to meet a total stranger in a prime robbery zone.
3. Having a friend nearby with a cell phone is too little, too late – as in, “When seconds count, cops are minutes away".
4. Good advice.
5. Good advice.
The usual police advice for want-ad buyers/sellers is to meet in well-lighted, well-populated areas, such as inside shopping malls with surveillance cameras. Big deal! Many true crime stories show that, sure, you can sell a small item while meeting a buyer in a mall hallway, but the buyer might have a criminal partner nearby to rob you when you return to the parking lot. They’ll get both the item you sold and all your money.
Or, if you’re the buyer, a criminal can simply not show up, have a partner watch as you get frustrated until you finally give up and return to the parking lot and then they’ll rob you.
A Boise ID woman was suspicious of an offer of a free iPod on Craigslist. But still the woman and her husband followed e-mail instructions to get the i-Pod which took them to a porta-potty by a park. They called police who found Stephen Newman with a knife and wearing a black ski mask.
For buying/selling small items through a want-ad, it is safer to meet in a parking lot – if it’s the parking lot of the local police station! Criminals will unlikely agree to meet there – or dare to rob you. Honest strangers will likely feel safer as well.
For large items that you are selling from your home (and for Garage or Yard Sales): having witnesses nearby visibly watching over you might deter a criminal from robbing you at that time. Perhaps have some of your neighbors nearby – but not so close that they can be taken hostage in an armed robbery (see Survival Options - Hostage Taking).
But do you really want strangers at your home? Criminals often respond to ads so they can check you out and return later when you least expect it. See a variety of examples at Home Security - Cracks. You'll see that you're really rolling the dice. Do you feel lucky?
For large items (that you are buying at a stranger’s “home”), Caveat Emptor!!! You’re on your own, baby! Carrying cash into a stranger’s turf is very risky. Gamble in Vegas – not in your life.
Craigslist is just the most famous example of where predators lurk. Know that any website or newspaper want-ad poses the exact same dangers – and predators search for all such opportunities – it’s their job.