The next time you see a good deal on Craigslist, you might want to give this a little thought...
According to New York City police, a gang in Brooklyn has been offering discounted iPhones on Craigslist to lure mugging victims. In at least one instance, the four suspects put up a posting in which they offered ten iPhones for the attractive price of $2000. They then negotiated with the potential buyers to meet in deserted areas in Brooklyn, where they proceeded to rob the hapless bargain hunters. On April 10, one would-be buyer scared them off by honking his car's horn, but on June 4, the men managed to steal $2000, a cellphone, and a handheld navigation device from one would-be buyer. Not long afterward, a police officer, posing as a customer, arranged a meeting, at which several officers converged upon the robbers. Since the arrest, the four men have been tied to four robberies and are being investigated in connection with eight more.
The first key element in this scam was the fact that, while the iPhones were selling for a discounted rate, their price was still somewhat reasonable. Moreover, the fact that Craigslist, like eBay, is largely unpoliced, makes it very easy for robbers to take advantage of the unwary. The next time you meet with someone you found on Craigslist, you might want to follow a few precautions.
First off, don't agree to any situation that will have you carrying large sums of money. If the sale involves a lot of cash, both you and your fellow Craigslister will be better off if you use traveler's checks, counter checks, or money orders.
Second, be sure to travel with a friend when meeting for a sale, as many would-be robbers will be discouraged when they discover that you're not alone.
Third, when you agree to meet with someone you've never met, be sure that the meeting place is somewhere that you know, or at least in a public area where there are a lot of witnesses. A legitimate buyer or seller should be perfectly happy to meet in a well-traveled area.
Finally, use your common sense: if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He doesn't like iPhones, anyway!
More scams to watch for: