Operational and Personal Security: Buying and Selling on Craigslist
The Following Incident Happened May 2015 In Overland Park Kansas.
A 21-year-old-woman was assaulted and robbed by two men after they invaded her apartment. There was another woman in the apartment as well, a so-called friend of the victim. Why were the men there? The 21-year-old was lead to believe, by her friend that the two men were thinking of buying some tools that the victim’s ex-boyfriend had left behind.
The victim had mentioned to her friend that she had some things to sell and the victim’s friend stated she knew a couple of guys that may be interested. They were interested however, not in buying, but in robbing and assaulting the victim.
The victim had surveillance cameras and the entire incident was caught on camera.
Obviously the victim thought she had a friend, a friend who she could confide in. The chain of events and the fact that the friend was in the apartment as the men assaulted and robbed the victim would lead anyone to believe the victim was set up by her friend. It is obvious from the video that the friend was “in on the robbery and assault”. The victim trusted someone, and because of this things went horribly wrong (Oberholtz, 2015).
The Trust Factor
You simply cannot allow yourself to be put in this type of position. You have to be careful of what information you divulge, and to whom you divulge it too. Remember Operational Security (OPSEC).
Recent and not so recent incidents involving Craigslist are other examples of how things can go horribly wrong with tragic endings when you conduct business online and then meet to buy or sell goods. You have to take precautions, and unfortunately you cannot trust anyone when it comes to your personal and financial safety.
What Can You Do
Millions of people buy and sell goods every year over the Internet without any problems and compared to the number of transaction according to statistics, tragic incidents are relatively low. Tell that to the victims and family members of victims however.
You find someone that has some gear or equipment you want, and a deal is struck. In most cases, you have no idea who the other participant is. If you show up to look at a log splitter for example, are you going to get your head spilt instead, it happens and it happens far too often, even one time is too many. You do not want it to happen to you or a loved one, so you have to stop, plan it out, and use some common sense.
First, never agree to visit a person’s private resident to look at anything, and of course never give out your address or allow someone to visit your home to look at something you may be selling. You need a safe zone, and in some cities the local police have a so-called “Operation Safe Lot” (Holley, 2015).
Call your local police to see if you can arrange to meet in the parking lot of the local police station or some other designated safe area that is monitored.
Always have your cell phone with you and never allow someone to change the location just before you get ready to meet. Call it off if you feel any tingles at all about the meeting, use your instincts.
If the local police do not participate in Operation Safe Lot then find a parking lot that is well lighted and busy, and only meet when the business is open. Bring a friend, and let others know the particulars of the meeting. A coffee shop would work, as well as, certain restaurants. If the buyer or the seller balks at these notions then that should be a red flag, and you should immediately call off the meeting.
To protect yourself online use a disposable e-mail address such as one from Mailinator, GishPuppy or others to conceal your identity when corresponding back and forth with strangers online. Remember regardless of whom you may think you are talking too, they could in fact be a stranger with ill intent.
Use your cell phone instead of a landline phone in the home to call so your phone number cannot be traced to a physical location.
When posting pictures of items to sell remember to remove Geotags from your pictures before you post on Craigslist or post them anywhere online. People with little technical expertise can extract location data from pictures taken with your Smartphone if you do not remove the tags.
Too learn how to remove Geotags please visit:
If a deal seems too good to be true it probably is, and sometimes people let their excitement get the better of them, and then convince themselves that it is ok, and then risks are taken that can lead to tragedy.
Use cash if possible and if anyone insists on checks or credit card payments then you should set up a PayPal account, for example, to get a layer of protection between you and the seller, or buyer for that matter. You can also use prepaid debit cards, offered by most banks and retailers that can be used for offline and online transactions. This way if the card or card number is stolen or otherwise compromised, you will not have your checking or savings account wiped out.
You do not want to give a stranger a check or give them a credit card number, because of the personal and financial information, and you probably do not want to receive a check for fear it is no good.
Wire transfers sometime are made and if you have to wire money before you see or receive the goods then you may find yourself out the money unless it is a well established company like EBay and even then problems arise, but you do have options and some recourse if you use a company such as EBay.
Your biggest concern is personal safety and then after that you want to protect your finances. You simply cannot allow anyone to get any personal or banking information that could lead to identify fraud. You could check your checking account one day to find someone has cleaned you out because he or she compromised your debit card.
Holley, P. (2015, March). Retrieved 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/03/02/following-craigslist-crimes-police-across-the-country-are-opening-safe-havens-for-transactions/
Oberholtz, S. (2015, May 13). Retrieved 2015, from http://www.wfsb.com/story/29056935/security-camera-captures-womans-terrifying-attack-during-home-invasion