The Craiglist Cat Burglars

By now, you are probably familiar with the website Craigslist.com. If not, it serves as a free, online community for buying and selling goods, personals, and even job listings.

Dubbed by Chicago police, “robbery by appointment”, Craigslist is quickly becoming the vehicle to bring unsuspecting victims straight to burglars.

This crime is set up by Internet savvy burglars who use real, local numbers, agree to meet in a public place in the middle of the day in safe neighborhoods, and appear to be a “regular” person simply inquiring about your Macbook for sale. When you, the victim, meet with this burglar, the transaction will appear to be normal until they hold you at gunpoint and rob you of your items for sale, or worse. In an extreme case in Pierce County, Washington State, homeowner, James Sanders, was murdered in front of his family.

The robberies by appointment are being dubbed “the perfect crime” as a criminal is often guaranteed the victim will meet them with something valuable, divulge personal information, such as their home address (larger items such as furniture being sold often results in an invitation straight into your home) and phone number, and very little way to track the burglar.

Although you would believe these criminals are leaving plenty of evidence behind, such as exchanged emails, the Craigslist ad, etc., many towns just simply don’t have the training or manpower to investigate these crimes.

“‘Such cybersleuthing is rarely done by local police,’ said Mark Rasch, former head of the Justice Department’s Computer Crime Unit.¬† The word is out, at least in some towns, that criminals don’t have to worry about being tracked through cyberspace. And while clever criminals could hide their Internet tracks, they usually don’t bother. ‘They rely on the fact that police lack subpoena power and technological sophistication,’ Rasch added.”

Does this mean you should stop using Craigslist?

The answer is,”No.”

“‘The overwhelming majority of Craigslist users are trustworthy and well-intentioned,’ said spokeswoman Susan MacTavish. ‘With billions of human interactions facilitated through Craigslist, the incidence of violent crime has been extremely low.'” The article also points out that it would be the same as posting a classified ad in the newspaper.

However, these Craigslist robberies are becoming so common, they can be tracked on the website CraigsCrimeList.org.

Please read these tips for a safe transaction:

  • ~Insist on meeting in a public place
  • ~Let a family member or friend know you will be engaging in this transaction, or better yet, bring a friend with you
  • ~Trust your instincts
  • ~Get as much information from the other party as you can without giving up much on yourself.
  • ~Research and Google this person wanting to buy your item- check out their Facebook page, Linked In profile, etc. Real people tend to have an online persona.
  • ~Conduct as much business as possible online to create a digital trail and leave evidence in case something goes wrong.

According to Rasch, these tips will “enhance your security”, but are not “fool-proof.”

“The more elaborate and firm your requests, the more likely a criminal will simply move on to another mark,’ he pointed out.”

If you would like to read the entire MSNBC article, please click here.