No more free advertising for prostitutes on Craigslist

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Craigslist has become a popular choice for mostly free classified ads in over 450 cities worldwide. The site's appeal to consumers is obvious: The ability to buy or sell just about anything for free. And that "anything" included sex.

Law enforcement agencies have gotten so riled up over the proliferation of sex for sale ads on Craigslist, that the company is finally taking steps to limit the listings. Craigslist has made an agreement with attorneys general from 40 states that the site will require those placing ads for "erotic services" to pay a fee with a credit card and give the site a working telephone number.

The collection of that information ensures that the sex for sale ads will not be completely anonymous, and law enforcement will have a simple paper trail to follow in trying to enforce laws against prostitution. Although Craigslist has been trying to limit ads for illegal activities, its has found it difficult.

Will this new process aid law enforcement efforts? I doubt it. It will likely reduce the number of sex-for-sale related listings. But there will still be listings, and enterprising young business owners will find a way around the controls. All it will take is a disposable telephone number and a disposable credit card number. I give Craigslist credit for trying to limit advertising for illegal activities, but I predict that this won't have much of a long-term impact. Personally, I wonder why they don't just eliminate the "erotic services" section of the site if they care so much about the issue.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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