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Craigslist: A 21st century den of thieves, deviants, scammers

The free online site craigslist has become a magnet of horror stories involving rapists, murderers and scam artists who post or respond to ads for dates, cars, baby sitters, baby clothes, TVs, video games, escorts and housing.

The latest:

• Henderson police busted six locals and a tourist who are accused of wanting to pick up underage boys and girls on craigslist, as Lawrence Mower reported in Sunday’s Review-Journal.

• You don’t even have to take part in craigslist to get victimized. Over the weekend, a Massachusetts couple told the media that an international adoption-scam ring used a photo of their 9-month-old baby (a picture taken from their family blog) to sell as a “cute baby boy for adoption” on craigslist.

• Police say a couple in Oregon robbed a guy’s house last year, then posted an ad on craigslist under his own name, urging everyone to go to his house and take whatever they wanted, ostensibly because he was leaving town — a ruse to cover for the couple’s robbery of his place. People read the ad and looted his home. An ad was later posted on craigslist asking looters to please return the stuff. Most did not.

• In April, police say a Boston medical student found a New York masseuse through craigslist, then smashed her head and shot her in the heart — four days after he found a Vegas prostitute on craigslist, coaxed her to a hotel, tied her up and robbed her.

• An Oregon woman is accused of meeting a pregnant woman through a craigslist ad about baby clothes, then cutting her abdomen, killing her and her 8-month-old fetus. That was in June.

• Also in June, Oscar-winning director Joseph Brooks was charged with 11 counts of rape of women he met through craigslist.

• Just this past Saturday, cops say a criminal in Virginia posted a TV for sale on craigslist, drawing an interested TV buyer to his home, where he robbed him at gunpoint.

• In Miami last week, police say a guy posted an ad on craigslist, claiming he was selling his PlayStation 3. He set up a public meeting with a potential buyer, whom he then robbed at gunpoint.

• Last week, the FBI put out a warning to people looking for homes or apartment rentals, because international scam rings are using craigslist to post housing ads, then taking people’s money online, while hiding out in the safe confines of foreign countries.

• Also last week, Chicago cops said that, while off duty, they answered an ad for a car, posted by three alleged criminals, one of whom beat them with a metal bat. One off-duty cop shot the men as they fled.

• Five months ago, cops say a teenager in New York hooked up with an AM radio reporter through craigslist, went to the reporter’s home, bound him by the ankles and stabbed him 50 times.

• In 2007, a Minnesota woman was charged with recruiting underage high school girls as prostitutes. That same year, the mayor of Atlanta complained to the company that it was being used by criminal enterprisers as “a means of promoting and enabling child prostitution.”

• Also in 2007, police say a 24-year-old Minneapolis theater graduate responded to a craigslist ad for a baby-sitting/nanny job posted by a man who then shot her in the back with a .357 Magnum and dumped her body in the trunk of a car.

I could go on and on about killings and robberies. Craigslist is a bonanza for bad news, despite the site owners’ stated desire for craigslist to be a simple place where innocents aren’t taken advantage of.

I have my own craigslist nightmare. I’ve never posted anything on craigslist, because when I’ve comparison-shopped for electronic goods on the site, I’ve found better deals here in town at Fry’s, which offers guarantees, no less.

Anyway, a few months ago, I was minding my own business at work, when my phone started going crazy with text messages from strangers sending me close-up photos of their naked crotches, saying they were responding to a craigslist ad.

Apparently, someone posted my mobile phone in an ad suggesting free sex. I texted the naked dudes, telling them that they’d been hoaxed.

One guy texted me the headline of the craigslist ad. By the time I found it, the poster had taken it down.

I alerted craigslist via e-mail and was asked for the account number associated with the ad. I didn’t know it. (How could I?) The site never informed me of a resolution of action taken on my case.

So even if you think craigslist is too stupid or dangerous to use, you can still get victimized by craigslist scum.

Good luck staying out of their sights.

Doug Elfman’s column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 383-0391 or e-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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