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Police warn residents of Craigslist robberies

Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 4:57 PM
Last updated Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 1:59 AM
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Michael Futrell was trying to teach his children a lesson in tidiness when he sold their iPad on Jan. 21. Little did Futrell know that he would be the one to learn a lesson that day.

He posted the tablet on Craigslist.org after his two children failed to keep their rooms clean. Futrell arranged a meeting and sold the device, but later found out he’d been paid in counterfeit money.

The North Augusta resident joined a growing list of victims who have fallen prey to criminals who use classified-ad sites to rob or deceive unsuspecting area residents.

According to a statement from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office last month, Futrell’s was one of at least three crimes tied to Craiglist so far this year. The other two incidents were armed robberies – one case ending in shots fired but no injuries. All incidents occurred in the 2100 block of B Street.

“It’s certainly a dangerous situation,” Lt. Lewis Blanchard said about the crimes. “In these situations, the chance of loss of life exists.”

After negotiating the price with the buyer – a woman – over the phone, Futrell called the number the next day to arrange a meeting. A man answered.

The man was interested in buying the iPad, Futrell said, but they could not agree on a price. After Futrell hung up, the woman he had spoken with called back from the same number, apologized on behalf of her husband and agreed to meet Futrell at the Wal-Mart in North Augusta to complete the transaction.

Before Futrell could leave the house, the woman called back, complaining of car trouble. Futrell then agreed to meet the couple on B Street near Lake Olmstead.

“That was a little naive of me because I didn’t know what kind of area that was,” Futrell said.

The exchange was quick. The man emerged from behind the house, handed over $270 and disappeared with the iPad in hand.

“As we were driving down Broad Street, my wife was counting the money and said, ‘This doesn’t feel right. It feels fake,’” he said.

Futrell later learned that more than $200 of the money was counterfeit.

Crimes involving ad sites such as Craigslist and Backpage.com are becoming more common, Blanchard said, because criminals are likely to walk away with more cash than they might otherwise.

“If they know you’re coming with $300 cash, you’re an easy target,” Blanchard said. “They don’t even know if they could get that by robbing a gas station.”

Robert Brame, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, said using the Web sites helps create an ideal situation for a robbery to take place.

That situation can be broken into three parts, he said.

“You need a victim that’s not adequately guarded, you need a motivated offender and you need an attractive target or something of value that the robber wants,” Brame said. “People who commit robberies often are looking for ways to create situations that are unguarded or low-risk for them to caught.”

Craiglist is perfect for lowering the guard of the victim because more time is devoted toward building their trust, said Maj. Florence McCants, of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.

“The longer they can keep you on the phone, the more they can get out of you,” McCants said. “They’re buying into your mental bank account and they’ll make an investment if they can.”

Crime reporting systems, however, prevent law enforcement from tracking robberies involving the sites, Brame said. Law enforcement agencies generally place armed robberies into two categories: commercial and personal. Craigslist robberies, which fall into the personal robbery category, are counted just like any other type of armed robbery, Brame said.

“You would treat it as though it was any other investigation you would have,” McCants said. “It’s no different than someone walking up to you as a stranger on the street. The only thing different is that people are using Craigslist as a tool to commit that crime. It’s a challenge.”

Asked by e-mail Monday how the company helps to prevent such crimes from happening, Craigslist spokeswoman Susan MacTavish Best deferred to the company’s safety tips listed on the site.

In the meantime, Futrell said, he’s rethinking his use of Craiglist.

“I’m a relatively cynical guy,” he said. “If anything, I think this experience will just harden my cynical bones when it comes to dealing with people on Craigslist.”

SAFETY TIPS

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office urges residents to follow these tips when using classified-advertising sites such as Craigslist.org to purchase or sell items:

• Check out the seller’s information. Ask for a phone number and address before arranging a meeting place.

• Ask as many questions as you can before going to buy the product. If the sellers can’t answer your questions, there is a good chance they don’t have the item they are selling.

• Don’t buy from sellers who list only an e-mail address.

• Meet in a public, well-lit place like a coffee shop or cafe to ensure your safety.

• Never go to a second location that has not been agreed on.

• Don’t travel by yourself.

• Show up to the meeting place early and scope out the area. If something seems out of place, trust your instincts and leave.

• If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Source: Richmond County Sheriff’s Office

Comments (12) Add comment
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Just My Opinion
5712
Points
Just My Opinion 02/05/14 - 06:40 pm
8
0
Even though I'm sorry this

Even though I'm sorry this has happened to these people, I'm appreciative that their stories have been told here. It will definitely make me more careful if I enter any transactions. Couple of the ones I did were in public places, but a couple were at their homes! Not smart on my part, but what do you do if you're picking up a large piece of something, like furniture?
One thing's for sure, I WON'T be going down to A, B, C, or D-Z streets!!

soapy_725
43686
Points
soapy_725 02/05/14 - 06:49 pm
0
0
Lewis B, "its more dangerous than the Evans HS parking lot"
Unpublished

Lewis B, "its more dangerous than the Evans HS parking lot"

corgimom
33218
Points
corgimom 02/05/14 - 09:32 pm
4
6
Anybody foolish enough to

Anybody foolish enough to meet up with total strangers with something of value, or with money to purchase something, brings their problems onto themselves.

People have absolutely lost their common sense.

Dixieman
15335
Points
Dixieman 02/05/14 - 10:20 pm
8
0
Sell it all you want

Just get paid by PayPal or a valid credit card that goes through or real money. And DON'T meet face to face unless it is in a very public place!! Preferably you get paid by PayPal and when the payment clears you MAIL the article to the buyer. And follow the police advice outlined above!!

corgimom
33218
Points
corgimom 02/05/14 - 10:58 pm
3
3
Even meeting in a public

Even meeting in a public place isn't a good idea, they follow you back to your car and hold you up.

Bottom line, don't buy or sell to strangers, the few bucks you make isn't worth the danger.

scoobynews
3855
Points
scoobynews 02/06/14 - 06:16 am
5
2
Who sells their kids iPad

Who sells their kids iPad because they don't keep their room clean? Most parents just restrict use. If the kids were that lazy and bad to start with why did they ever get them one to begin with. Whole story sounds funny to me.

my.voice
4867
Points
my.voice 02/06/14 - 08:04 am
5
0
PayPal? Ever hear of a

PayPal? Ever hear of a chargeback? Nope, no way I'd use paypal, not for craigslist.

Sweet son
10555
Points
Sweet son 02/06/14 - 12:52 pm
3
0
Bizkit
32161
Points
Bizkit 02/06/14 - 06:11 pm
1
0
Hey this could create a

Hey this could create a copycat who can rob the Craig's list robbers. Poetic justice. Good ole free enterprise and a little competition. And as they say on Oh Brother Where Art Thou "Ohhhh mercy yes we got to beat that competition."

CobaltGeorge
160967
Points
CobaltGeorge 02/06/14 - 06:24 pm
0
1
Sweet son

I second what you say.

myfather15
55725
Points
myfather15 02/07/14 - 07:15 am
2
0
There are ways to do it!!

There are ways to do it!! Just be more creative!! I KNOW I was about to be a victim of this; why? Because I was trying to buy a nice laptop (Alien) someone had adveretised on craigslist for $900.00, which was a good price for this specific laptop!! I asked them to meet me in the Sheriff's Office parking lot for the exchange. They agreed, but never showed!!

Mike_Futrell
2
Points
Mike_Futrell 02/10/14 - 09:22 pm
0
0
We bought the iPad to keep

We bought the iPad to keep the kids entertained on multiple transatlantic airplane flights. When they started to neglect keeping their room picked up, we told them we were going to sell the iPad. We've had dozens of positive experiences buying and selling on Craigslist, we were just a little too trusting in this instance.

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