WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Craigslist.com — one of the most popular web sites for buying and selling items — may be as dangerous as it is convenient.
Police in Winston-Salem are seeing an increase in robberies that occur during attempted transactions solicited through the web site. Currently they are investigating multiple Craigslist robberies, attributing the rise in crimes to a increased use in technology, which makes the site more accessible.
Often, police said, victims end up with a gun in their face, no money and their belongings gone.
“It’s got to be scary to realize that someone is willing to threaten your life and potentially take your life for an electronic device,” Lt. Steven Tollie said.
Tollie said electronics are most frequently associated with the robberies including iPads, iPods and cell phones which are popular and expensive. He wants to make sure that Craigslist users realize that no matter how trustworthy they seem to be, other Craigslist users are still strangers.
“It’s very dangerous because you don’t know who it is and who’s out there,” said Caitlin Fox, a frequent Craigslist user. “There’s usually not too much talking involved. I guess both parties are nervous of what the other could do.”
Police say meeting the buyer or seller in a public place — particularly one with cameras — is a good way to keep yourself safe.
“I only communicate through email, I don’t ever do it through my phone number or anything like that,” Fox said.
That is something police disagree with. By talking with someone on the phone, they said, you can pick up on irregularities which may alert you to danger.
Fox, however, said she still won’t communicate via telephone because she doesn’t want potential robbers to have her cell phone number.
“If you’re gonna do it, be smart with it — do it in broad daylight in a public location,” said Demonte Rose, who also uses the site.
Rose said he had to call off a transaction once, because he didn’t feel right about the arrangement.
“It was kinda sketchy, it was three-something in the morning and on top of that he [was bringing] four different dudes,” Rose said. “And he wanted to meet in a location I wasn’t really familiar with.”
Location changes are also something police want you to be aware of. Many times, they said, robbers will meet in a public place, then ask to go somewhere else, which gives them the advantage.