App helps close Craigslist safety gap

AdobeStock_1137647.jpegvia Moak: App helps close Craigslist safety gap, clarionledger.com

If you’ve ever bought or sold something on the iconic website Craigslist from a local source, you might have experienced a moment of trepidation when you finally click the button to finalize the transaction. The next inevitable question: where to meet to make the exchange? In recent years, there have been many news reports of people who met up on Craigslist to conclude business, only to find a criminal waiting there to murder, rob, rape, swindle or otherwise attack them.

It’s a big issue for people who do a lot of business on Craigslist. The site has a list of tips to help people avoid being the victim of a crime, but still, disturbing accounts surface. In

January, the Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey reported a grisly milestone had recently been reached: At least 101 homicides have been linked to Craigslist transactions. That doesn’t count the numerous lesser crimes (or near-misses) reported by people using Craigslist to meet. And criminal activity works both ways: Crooks sometimes place ads on Craigslist to lure victims, while others troll the ads, looking for possible targets. And sometimes, things go wrong during the transaction.

One issue that frustrates many users is that Craigslist’s management has always maintained they’re just providing a marketplace, and have no control over the actions of the people who use it. While that might be legally defensible, it has not calmed the rising chorus of protest from people demanding that something be done.

Many Craigslist regulars have gotten smarter about picking a meeting place, and gravitate towards places with police around, such as the parking lots or lobbies of police stations. This week, Craigslist users have a new tool that can help find those places. The Qwilo app (currently only available for Apple) has a new feature called Safe Meeting Places. With a simple click using your cellphone’s geo-location feature, you can how find them on a map.The app can be downloaded here.

“Craigslist is a great place to buy things but there’s always a bit of apprehension when meeting a buyer or seller you found on the Internet,” said Phillip Lee, Product Manager for Qwilo, in a news release.  “We built the Safe Meeting Places feature to make it easier for Craigslist users to find a safe public place where they can conduct their transactions without fear of violence or being scammed.”

In general, many experts advise you to heed Craigslist’s own safety tips if you’re meeting someone as the result of a Craigslist interaction:

  • Insist on a public meeting place.
  • Don’t meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.
  • Be especially careful buying/selling high value items.
  • Tell a friend or family member where you’re going.
  • Take your cellphone along if you have one.
  • Consider having a friend accompany you.
  • Trust your instincts.

And, if you must meet someone at your house (say, for example if you’re selling a large piece of furniture), Lifehacker advises you to leave the door open, make sure you’ve got a friend around or available to call, and try to meet outside your house or apartment if possible.

While these precautions might not have prevented all of the Craigslist-linked crimes, having a safer place to meet could save some lives and property.

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