Craigslist becomes resource for criminals

  • People continue to find new uses for the Web site Craigslist
  • On Monday, two men were robbed after being lured to a location by an ad placed on Craigslist
  • There was also an incident in which someone tried scamming people into renting homes that he or she did not even own
  • The news of crimes being committed through Craigslist is troubling to students around Marquette who have used the site in the past

Scooter Laufer had been renting out his properties through Craigslist for a few months before he started receiving some unusual phone calls from prospective buyers.

Although both duplexes he was renting had an asking price of around $1,500 a month, Laufer received phone calls from people who said they read an ad saying he was renting for between $700 and $800 a month.

Laufer, who owns Picture Frame Homes in Slinger, Wis., said he flagged the advertisement on Craigslist and then contacted Yahoo when he found out a person had made a Yahoo e-mail account using his name.

"We got him removed from Craigslist and then the next week he actually posted that ad again, but then it only took like a day to get him removed from Craigslist again with my particular ad," Laufer said.

He said he does not know if anything can be done to prevent things like this from happening.

"I think that people just have to be smarter on the type of ads that they respond to and if it is too good to be true, it probably is," he said.

This has not been the only crime committed through Craigslist recently.

On April 13, two men were robbed in an alley near North 24th Street and West Burleigh Street after responding to an advertisement on Craigslist. According to Sgt. Mark Stanmeyer, two 25-year-old men responded to an advertisement placed on Craigslist about a car that was for sale.

"When the victims were directed into an alley one of the suspects produced a handgun," Stanmeyer said. "The suspects took money and property from the victims and fled on foot."

The Milwaukee Police Department has recently begun looking to put a stop to solicitation of prostitution through Craigslist. Anne E. Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the MPD, acknowledged the problem.

"Milwaukee police do conduct investigations into escort ads placed on Craigslist,"Schwartz said in an email. "If you respond to an ad, or place one, be mindful that you may be connecting with a Milwaukee police officer who is investigating prostitution on the Internet."

Craigslist users around Marquette said they found these crimes chilling, as they too have met with people they were buying things from.

Colin Bowe, a junior in the College of Communication, said he just bought a flat screen TV from Craigslist. He said he never thought that something like this could happen.

"I thought that the Web site tracked the people who placed ads to prevent things like that from happening," Bowe said. "Looking back at my purchase, I think it is kind of stupid that I picked up that TV by myself. Who knows, I could have been robbed or seriously hurt."

On the Craigslist Web site, a list of precautions are given to help users sidestep scammers. The number one scam deterrent it cited was, "DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON — follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99 percent of the scam attempts on Craigslist."

Stanmeyer stressed that it is important for people who use sites like Craigslist to be cautious when meeting people they have met online and provided advice on how to avoid these situations.

"The buyer should try to meet the individual who placed the ad at a location selected by the buyer," he said. "A location should be chosen that is in a busy public place. Large retail stores or gas station parking lots often have video cameras that may also scare away online predators."

Stanmeyer said MPD is still in search of the two robbery suspects and Laufer said as far as he was concerned, the person who tried scamming him is still at large.