Conducting business with a stranger always brings a certain amount of risk – both for buyer and seller. But, in this digital age of classified advertising, where individuals are conducting one-on-one transactions for used cars, sports tickets, furniture or even intimate relationships, the risk of harm grows exponentially.
Consider the recently-published “Craigslist killings,” a list of 84 people whose lives were cut short over the last 8 years through encounters with people they met via the online classifieds site. Some were involved in encounters that were already risky enough, notably drug transactions and prostitution. But others were innocent victims, using the site to conduct transactions that have been part of the classifieds culture for generations – to buy or sell a car, inquire about a job, find a place to live or just sell personal items.
The point of the list was not to bash Craigslist itself, though critics often call on the site to take more proactive steps to educate their visitors about safer ways to conduct their transactions. Instead, the list’s authors – a group that’s promoting an initiative called “SafeTrade” – is calling on law enforcement agencies to open their facilities as trading stations where people can meet to conduct their transactions.
The idea is that anyone looking to take advantage of a would-be buyer or seller or is otherwise looking to do harm to another person likely won’t want to meet in the parking lot of a neighborhood police station. Already, the group has successfully lobbied more than 50 police agencies across the country to open their facilities and/or offer some sort of assistance to help make these transactions safer.
Simply said, I applaud these efforts – not because the police agencies have become involved and not because this group is highlighting the violence that has taken place as a result of craigslist encounters. Instead, I applaud any effort to raise awareness around the steps that people should take to keep themselves safe.
That’s one of the reasons I include a prominent link to a “Scams and Shams” page on Geebo. My list of tips on how people can protect themselves when engaging in transactions that originated on the Internet is helpful – but it’s also meant to raise awareness, so that people understand that they should always be aware of people who may be looking to take advantage of them or otherwise cause them harm.
Obviously, there are some situations where risks will be higher. Those who are meeting about a home rental, for example, have no choice than to meet at that home. But people can minimize their risks by bringing someone with them when they meet the other party, by meeting during daytime hours when others are more likely to be around, by letting others know where they’ll be and providing the information they have about the other person they’ll be meeting.
There are great bargains to be found on the Internet and it’s safe to say that most people are just looking to make an honest and simple transaction. But there’s also a criminal element out there looking to harm someone else – and being proactive can help keep your name off a list of victims.
Awareness is key and everyone can do his or her part – even something as simple as sharing this blog post with your social media friends or bringing the SafeTrade Station idea to your own local police department
If any of this saves one life, it was worth the effort.