Craigslist can be a great way to buy or sell items, but if you’re not careful about the people you’re dealing with, it can also be very dangerous.
Robbery victims lured through used car ad on Craigslist
A drug addict recently admitted to posting an ad on Craigslist for a 2004 Honda Civic, only to rob three people at gunpoint who came to look at the vehicle. Shawn Christopher McShane, 29, pleaded guilty to the two robberies, which both happened January 25 in Bristol, Pennsylvania.
Read more: 4 ways to stay safe when using Craigslist
Two robberies within an hour
The first prospective car buyer, a 26-year-old man, arrived around 7:30 p.m. to inspect and purchase the vehicle. At that point, McShane directed the victim to a parking lot, where he pulled out a handgun and demanded money. The victim gave up $4,200 in cash, a cell phone and his wallet, which included debit cards.
About an hour later, authorities said McShane confronted two men in their 30s who also answered the used car ad. He again pulled a handgun and forced them to give up the $4,600 they had brought to buy the car.
Guilty as charged
McShane blamed the robberies on his drug addiction. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced earlier this month to 12 to 24 years in state prison.
“I feel sorry for everyone involved,” McShane said in court. “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. My only concern was getting high. I need help.”
Takeaway: Find a “safe area” for Craigslist transactions
Following this incident, Bristol Township police began offering the parking lot of the police department building and the police lobby as “safe areas” for Craigslist and other classified ad transactions to take place. This is worth mentioning because the police department where you live might also have a similar program.
In addition, Craigslist has provided a few tips to stay safe when buying and selling, which could have prevented the victims in this case from being robbed in the first place:
- Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe, bank, or shopping center.
- Do not 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 cell phone along if you have one.
- Consider having a friend accompany you.
- Trust your instincts.