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  • Geebo 9:01 am on May 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: art theft, craigslist, Mordokwan, rembrandt, wire fraud   

    Was craigslist used in the country’s largest art heist? 

    Was craigslist used in the country's largest art heist?

    There’s no doubt that craigslist has a crime problem. One industry observer even called craigslist a ‘cesspool of crime’. The crimes committed on craigslist are countless, but one you don’t normally hear about is art theft. We’re not talking about dogs playing poker either.

    Over 25 years ago, two men disguised as police stole over $500 million in artwork from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Two of those pieces were Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee” (partially shown above), and Johannes Vermeer’s “The Concert”. “The Concert” is valued at $200 million. The FBI has been offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the paintings.

    Recently, a man known only by the pseudonym of ‘Mordokwan’, allegedly took out craigslist ads all over the world claiming he had the aforementioned paintings and was selling them both for $55 million. So, was a crime so rare that it’s usually reserved for heist movies brokered through craigslist? Not exactly.

    As it turns out, it was a crime that craigslist is more known for, wire fraud. ‘Mordokwan’ turned out to be 47-year-old Todd Andrew Desper of Beckley, West Virginia. Authorities were able to track him down after he allegedly requested a $5 million cashier’s check be sent to a PO Box at a local UPS Store. Desper was said to not be in possession of any of the paintings advertised or any of the ones stolen and is not believed to be connected to the original heist.

    While Mr. Mordokwan may not be the smartest criminal to ever use craigslist, he’s far from the only one, and craigslist continues to not lift a finger when it comes to their users’ safety.

     
  • Geebo 8:57 am on May 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: craigslist, Forbes, , ,   

    Geebo is not for naught, despite what Forbes may say 

    Geebo is not for naught, despite what Forbes may say

    Recently, Forbes.com published a blog post about startup classifieds apps LetGo and OfferUp and how one of them may be the latest craigslist killer. By that we mean a proverbial David taking on the Goliath of craigslist, and not one of the 100+ murderers that have used craigslist to find their victims. We’ll get to those startups in a moment, but first a comment in the article made about Geebo needs to be addressed.

    Halfway down the page Geebo is dismissed by the Forbes blogger in the following manner…

    Every few years, someone in Silicon Valley looks at Craigslist and thinks he or she can do better. In the late 1990s, the startled newspaper companies tried collaborating with each other on various projects, and in 2000, Geebo launched as the “safe” Craigslist. In 2004, there was Oodle, a well-financed website that later tried to incorporate Facebook identities. All these efforts basically came to naught.

    The Forbes blogger seems to have not done his research as very little what he wrote about Geebo is correct. Geebo was founded in 1999, however, it was not launched as the “safe” alternative to craigslist as he put it. Geebo CEO Greg Collier founded Geebo to provide a better user experience than what was being put out by hard-copy newspapers. Not only that, but at the time of Geebo’s founding Mr. Collier had not even heard of craigslist as it had not yet become the brand that we know today. Mr. Collier even said that he didn’t want Geebo to be anything like craigslist. He also wanted Geebo to have its own users rather than trying to take users away from craigslist. Since that time Geebo has in fact marketed itself as a safer community classifieds. That’s a claim that Geebo takes very seriously considering the number of murders and other crimes that have been committed through the so-called industry leaders craigslist and Backpage. Even relative newcomer LetGo has had a couple of murders committed through its app.

    The rest of the Forbes blog post seems to be nothing more than a love letter to OfferUp. While OfferUp may not be headquartered in Silicon Valley, it still follows the same old Silicon Valley routine. They went to venture capitalists looking for seed money in order to get their startup off the ground. And let’s face it, apps like LetGo and OfferUp are usually founded for one primary reason and that’s to be bought out by a larger company. Geebo has always been a self funded company and has maintained profitability in an industry where many startups don’t even have a monetization plan. In fact Geebo generates more net profit than craigslist per 1 million users.

    Speaking of users, the Forbes post states that LetGo has a userbase of 7.3 million while OfferUp users come in around 6.3 million. Legitimate user numbers can be tricky in determining since a number of companies use click farms overseas to inflate their numbers. These click farms can also be used to scrape content from other sites.

    This isn’t even taking into consideration that Forbes.com isn’t the financial journal of record that it once was. A few years ago they opened up their website to just about anyone who cared to write for them. They have basically become a content farm for the financial sector.

    In conclusion, Geebo has been a successful business in an industry that has seen many proverbial bodies left in its wake. We were here before the startups and we’ll be here after they’re gone. All while maintaining a reputation of being an ethical and safer classifieds.

     
  • Geebo 9:22 am on April 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , craigslist, crime,   

    Triple digit murders highlight craigslist’s lack of safety 

    Triple digit murders highlight craigslist's lack of safety

    Last year, The Washington Post ran an article entitled “Think twice before answering that ad: 101 murders have been linked to Craigslist”. That number was provided by the AIM Group who maintain a public list of victims on the Craigslist Killings – Craigslist Safety blog. Since that article was published, there have been nine more victims added to the list bringing the number up to 110.

    The article also goes on to mention Aim Group’s SafeTrade initiative to turn police stations into safe zones for craigslist transactions. That should tell you volumes right there on how unsafe craigslist really is. If a major industry watchdog group and numerous police departments across the country are urging you to use police stations to do business on craigslist then it really isn’t all that safe.

    Craigslist has such a low barrier to entry that they don’t even require a valid phone number for anyone to place ads. This allows anyone with a criminal intent to place an ad for whatever reason. The crimes on craigslist run the gamut from fake check scams to robbery to sexual assault, all the way up to murder. If history is any indicator, craigslist will probably not enact any additional safety features to the anemic ones that they barely have. Craigslist hasn’t even publicly commented on user safety in seven years, according to The Post.

    Craigslist has always prided itself on having a minimum number of employees. In the past they have stated that there are only about two dozen employees to help run a global classifieds empire. What it really comes down to is that craigslist seems to covet their profit margins so much, that they would rather sacrifice user safety than having new safety measures eat into their bank account. Craigslist may have been founded on Bay Area principles of community and sharing, but today they are nothing more than an international bastion of greed whose only real concern is the bottom line.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on April 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: craigslist, ,   

    Facebook and craigslist team up to fight fake news, not notice irony 

    Facebook and craigslist team up to fight fake news, not notice irony

    Since the 2016 Presidential Election, ‘fake news’ has been the story that’s refused to die with Facebook being ground zero for most fake stories that are perpetrated on the internet. In the past Facebook has taken steps to combat this problem without really fixing anything in our opinion. Now Facebook must be absolutely serious about the problem because they’ve teamed up with that bastion of truth and integrity, craigslist. Sarcasm fully intended, by the way.

    While we’ve been over this before, but it bears repeating. With Facebook, anyone can post just about anything no matter how libelous it may be, pay to get the story boosted, then when the story turns out to be blatantly false, it takes nothing short than an act of God to get the story removed. As for craigslist, you can post an ad for just about anything including, but not limited to, revenge ads soliciting the sexual assault of just about any person you feel has wronged you. That’s not including the paranoid, racist and otherwise hate-filled scribes that inhabit the rants and raves section.

    Both sites, and their founders by extension, are acting like they’re standing on some kind of moral high ground. In reality the high ground their standing on is the mountain of lies perpetrated by their users and encouraged by the sites themselves.

     
  • Geebo 10:58 am on February 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , craigslist, ,   

    Craigslist founder spends half a million to combat harassment, just not at craigslist 

    Craigslist founder spends half a million to combat harassment, just not at craigslist

    Craigslist founder and namesake, Craig Newmark, has recently donated $500,000 of his own money in order to combat the “trolling, harassment and cyber-bullying” of users of a certain website. Of course that website is craigslist right? Um not exactly.

    Newmark recently spent the half million to fight the trolling on the oft-vandlaized Wikipedia.

    Wikimedia says the money will be used to launch a program to help editors “more quickly identify potentially harassing behavior.”

    While Wikipedia is a highly resourceful and valuable website, it can’t possibly contain the amount of trolling, harassment and cyber-bullying that craigslist does. In the past, ads on craigslist have been flagged and pulled because the business posting the ad said that they spoke Spanish. Go to any of the rants and raves sections and it won’t take you long to find some racist hate-filled diatribe. Convicted mass murderer Dylann Roof even placed a craigslist ad looking for a travel buddy that said “No Jews, queers, or (racial slurs)” prior to his killing spree. That’s not even counting the number of revenge or prank ads on craigslist that end up sending potentially dangerous people to the houses of unsuspecting victims.

    When you’re own home is in a state of extreme disrepair, you normally don’t spend money to help fix the nicer house down the street.

     
  • Geebo 12:05 pm on December 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , craigslist, , robbery   

    Everything old is new again: Facebook Marketplace used for robberies 

    Everything old is new again: Facebook Marketplace used for robberies

    Back in October, we posted on this blog about how Facebook’s new Marketplace feature was not only rife for abuse, but that the abuses were already taking place. These were some of the same abuses that have plagued craigslist for years.

    Now, industry watchdog The AIM Group, is reporting that Facebook Marketplace is now suffering from an even bigger problem that is also reminiscent of craigslist, robbery. At least two armed robberies have occurred and in one incident a victim was stabbed while being robbed. If history is any indicator, it won’t be too long before the media is calling someone the ‘Facebook Marketplace Killer’. By AIM Group’s own estimate there have been 105 murders related to craigslist as of October, 2016. With as many users as Facebook has, they could potentially dwarf that unfortunate number.

    The problem with Facebook Marketplace is the same that craigslist has always had and that’s the lack of moderation. Facebook is making the same mistake as craigslist by relying on the community to police the ads rather than having in-house moderation. While human curation isn’t the be all and end all to keeping its users safe it can go so much farther than relying on an untrained community. Unfortunately, Facebook has a history of mishandling any kind of human editing staff. With its brand and userbase, Facebook has the potential to be even a bigger criminal hive than craigslist ever was.

     
  • Geebo 7:44 am on May 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: craigslist, ,   

    The craigslist safety app is too little too late 

    The craigslist safety app is too little too late

    Recently craigslist announced that they have sanctioned a smartphone app that shows users where they can supposedly make transactions safely. The app is said to show the locations of coffee shops and police stations. While we commend craigslist for finally starting to think about the safety of their users we here at Geebo have to ask, what took them so long?

    We’re not even talking about the fact that Geebo is an industry leader when it comes to assisting in our customers’ safety. For example back in March of last year Geebo CEO Greg Collier partnered with the SafeTrade Stations initiative that was started by industry watchdog, The AIM Group. The SafeTrade Stations program was started in response to the fact that at the time 84 people had been violently murdered after using craigslist. That number has since risen to 103. While these deaths may only be a minute fraction of the number of transactions that take place on craigslist it should be a large enough number to cause craigslist concern. However this is the first step, as far as we can recall, that craigslist has taken in years to aid in the safety of their users, except they didn’t even take this step. Another company developed the app and craigslist just gave it their seal of approval. So in reality craigslist barely lifted a finger.

    This is not surprising considering craigslist’s lax history when it comes to safety. They say that their site is too large to moderate their ads yet they have no problem in pulling all sorts of ads that aren’t even flagged by their so-called ‘community police’. In the past they’ve pulled ads for such things as unlocked iPhones to recalled baby strollers yet they don’t pull ads for such things as illegal drugs, firearms, human trafficking and the multitude of scams that craigslist is awash with. Speaking of their community police, it seems the term police is used rather loosely. For lack of a better term it seems that the craigslist community police are a case of the inmates running the asylum. Too often craigslist ads are flagged for personal reasons like the ad is flagged by a competitor of the ad’s poster. While on the other hand they tend not to flag any ads for obvious illegal activity. In contrast Geebo has its ads moderated by staff members who have a keen eye when it comes to scams and illegal content.

    In the past craigslist was infamous for its adult ads where human trafficking thrived. Although it did remove those ads after consumer and media pressure, craigslist still has sections that could be considered dark alleys of the internet. An inordinate amount of arrests have been generated from their personals and the ‘casual encounter’ section of craigslist along with an inordinate number of victims of online predators. Years ago Greg Collier, against common practice, removed personal ads from Geebo  in order to better provide a safer experience to Geebo’s users. At no point did Geebo ever accept ads that had their roots in human trafficking.

    Geebo even takes the safety and welfare of those unable to defend themselves seriously. Another Geebo policy is that we do not accept ads that deal  in animals. This is because of the number of puppy mills that deal in unhealthy animals but also because of the number of scams that involve animals. However on craigslist you can find a number of either wild, dangerous, illegal or unhealthy animals.

    For a company that professes to be such a pillar of not only the online community but the real world community as well craigslist doesn’t appear to be acting in any community’s self-interest except its own.

     
  • Greg Collier 2:43 pm on March 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cornell University, craigslist, New York University, , University of Maryland   

    Why Does Craigslist Make It Easy for Scammers to Find Victims? 

    Scams have long been – and probably always be – a part of our lives. From the smooth-talking snake oil salesmen of yesteryear to the Bernie Madoff schemes of a new generation, this criminal element has long preyed on the naive, the trusting types who buy into bargains that sound too good to be true because they are.

    Over the years, scammers have had to be quick on their feet, ready to run from a spurned customer looking for revenge or to skip town ahead of a sheriff with an arrest warrant. Today, the anonymity of the Internet allows scammers to not only avoid personal contact but also cast a wider net to a greater pool of victims under the guise of many different personas.

    It’s no surprise that thousands of those ads appear on craigslist. And it should also come as no surprise that craigslist does a poor job of identifying and removing those ads in a timely manner, leaving the door open for even more victims hours after ads are flagged.

    That’s according to a study jointly conducted at University of Maryland, New York University and Cornell University that closely examined the rental listings in 20 cities over a 141-day period to identify scams. In all, the researchers put together a series of formulas that was able to detect and identify about 29,000 scam listings, many of which followed patterns that made identifying them that much easier.

    That’s both good news and bad news. It’s good news because the researchers were able, in a short period of time, to produce a solution that could rid craigslist of many of these ads, saving some of its visitors from being exposed to them. The bad news is that a study of craigslist’s filtering and flagging systems for removing the ads was determined to be ineffective, with less than half of the ads identified by the research team actually being removed by craigslist during the test period.

    In a 18-page report, the research team explains that, while craigslist filtering system for taking down scam ads is largely inefficient, there are other ways that the site could take down and deter the scammers, including government fines for deceptive advertising or working with the credit card companies to stop them from collecting funds. Without the ability to collect money from unsuspecting victims, the scam itself is no longer worth the effort.

    But counting on craigslist to do the right thing, or to invest any real time or energy into making the site safer, is probably a long shot.

    At Geebo, we do our best to be proactive against scams, largely by partnering with many other sites so that we only post legitimate ads from known sources, whether home listings or cars for sale. Likewise, I have devoted a page on geebo.com to tips on how to avoid being a victim of a scam.

    At the end of the day, there will always be scammers and there will always be the types who fall for the scams, possibly because they’re naive or simply too trusting. One of the most important tips I provide my visitors is to follow their gut instincts – even if it means passing up a great deal or the perfect home. Your instinct will tell you that wiring thousands of dollars to a landlord who’s currently out of the country is probably a bad idea. Likewise, jumping through hoops to get an inside peek at an apartment should be a red flag.

    Neither I, nor craigslist, can offer a 100 percent guarantee that an ad isn’t a scam. Those types of criminals are creative and are always finding ways to get one over. But we can do our parts to make it harder for scammers to infiltrate our sites.

    Now that a team of university researchers have identified how to do that, we’ll see if craigslist takes action to make its site safer.

     
  • Greg Collier 8:51 am on May 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , craigslist, , , partnerships, ruling, Scraping   

    Site scraping may be bad business, but courts say it’s legal 

    The purpose of a classified ad is to reach the largest audience possible, casting the largest net, if you will. After all, whether you’re selling a car, renting a home or advertising a service for hire, the goal of the classified ad is to make sure that a large number of people see that ad

    So, why would anyone want to hinder the ability to reach the largest audience? Through a lawsuit, that’s exactly what craigslist was trying to do by arguing that it held copyright on the user-posted ads that appear on its sites. But, earlier this month, a judge ruled against the large classified site, noting that the site itself – craigslist, in this case – does not hold copyright over an ad unless it’s granted exclusive rights to it.

    Call it a victory for the “scrapers” in that the courts have defended the ability to take an ad from one site and repurpose it on another. As a site owner, I’m definitely not advocating the idea that a new site could steal ads from Geebo and make a profit from it. But I also understand the importance of large net.

    By law, scraping may be allowed – but I think of it as the lazy approach. At Geebo, we take pride in our syndication efforts. We create solid business relationships with other sites to maximize the exposure for the people who have something to advertise. Geebo has relationships with real estate sites and car buying sites, for example, to not only put Geebo’s ads into bigger nets but also to put other ads in front of Geebo visitors.

    For us, syndicating content is good business. We’re open and upfront about it, making sure our customers know what we’re doing and why. To us, scraping content is not a good business practice, despite the widespread practice. It’s a free ride on the sweat of someone else’s work. Still, the court was right in noting that the ad itself does not belong to the site publisher but instead to the user.

    We know that publishers are constantly looking to harvest Geebo’s content. But instead of blocking them, we reach out directly and try to establish a bona fide partnership that includes cost-per-click/lead pricing, something that’s fair to both parties.

    Bottom line: The content is out there for the taking. But site publishers can either attempt to block the practice of scraping the way craigslist did or they can embrace it as a new business opportunity, the way Geebo has.

    The courts have spoken, leaving the ball back in our courts so that we can embrace the best business practices. The goal is to make sure the user – whether someone looking to buy or sell – has the best experience.

    That’s good business.

     
  • Greg Collier 4:46 pm on May 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , craigslist, , , OLX, online prostitution, PennySaver, Recycler   

    Responsible Classifieds Sites: Yes, We Exist 

    There’s an old expression about the squeaky wheel being the one that gets the oil. It’s an an analogy that’s widely used in different scenarios – the school officials who pay attention to the trouble-maker but give no recognition to kids who pay attention in class or the boss who deals with the complainer in the office but takes little notice of the employee who meets all of his deadlines.

    In recent months, the attention on the online classifieds news business has focused pretty much on craigslist and backpage – and not in a good way. Mind you, I’m not complaining – and I’m guilty of also focusing on them – because it puts pressure on these sites to recognize the harm that they’re inflicting on society simply because they seem to turn a blind eye to human trafficking, child prostitution and other morally-objectionable crimes that flourish on their sites.

    I’ve spoken out on this time and time again and I’ve made no secret of how I feel about these sites. But what I – and the news media – have failed to do in our awareness-raising reports is to shed some light on those in the online classifieds business who are providing safe online marketplaces where prostitution – disguised as “personals” ads – are simply not allowed. Much like Geebo, sites such as recycler, pennysaverusa and olx.com, which followed Geebo’s lead and also dropped personals ads, have operated in a responsible manner. Though these sites are competitors to Geebo, I also like to think of them as allies in the fight to clean up online marketplaces and provide safe forums for people to advertise everything from job listings and car ads to real estate listings and garage sale items.

    It’s sad that the face of classifieds has taken such a dark turn. There was a day, back when newspapers dominated the industry, that these sorts of taboo activities that have become the mainstream were isolated to red-light publications and neighborhoods. Sure. it was a problem back then, too, but it was isolated. We could warn our children to stay out of those neighborhoods and away from those elements. Law enforcement officials were able to monitor the areas and enforce the laws when it was so warranted.

    Today, those sites have put these criminal activities into the mainstream, in a place where our children can easily access bad people with bad intentions without any supervision. Despite what the operators of these sites claim, their efforts to monitor are laughable.

    We should all take a lesson from the pioneer of classifieds ads – the newspapers. Mainstream family-oriented newspapers, which provided a forum for news and community on their pages, never would have allowed such ads on their pages. They were the gatekeepers that set the rules and standards for what was appropriate and what wasn’t. As an operator of an online classifieds site, I believe in following in their footsteps when it comes to serving as that gatekeeper for my own site.

    I continue to be both amazed and saddened that a handful of sites can disregard that gatekeeper role and let criminals roam freely on their sites to seek out victims. At the same time, I am proud to be part of another group of sites that have chosen to take the higher road and provide safe marketplaces.

    Today, I applaud them and encourage people to patronize them. Let them know that you appreciate what their efforts and responsible business practices.

     
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