Craigslist offers users this advice for avoiding scams:
Deal locally with advertisers so you can meet up in a public space
Avoid paying through money wiring services
Be aware of fake cashier checks
Avoid giving out information on bank accounts, social security numbers, eBay and PayPal
Do not submit to credit or background checks unless you have met with the job interviewer or landlord
• 60 million people use Cragslist every month, according to its website.
• The website does not regulate payment, leaving people open to fraud and scams.
• Scams are hard to prosecute because they are perpetrated online.
More than 60 million people use the classified advertisement website Craigslist each month to get rid of old items and make a little cash on the side, but this public exchange leaves itself open for exploitation, according to the website.
Jennifer Pierce, a senior hospitality management major, said she hoped to earn some money on Craigslist by selling a ring her ex-boyfriend had given her. A person from Oregon contacted her and told her to use PayPal to receive payment. She shipped the ring and two weeks later, she still had not received the money.
The buyer gave her instructions on how to set up a PayPal account, which left her open to fraud. Using a third party to scam sellers is a common occurrence, according to Craigslist.org, and the website cautions users from taking advice from others users of the service.
Since the crimes and criminals are online, it is often hard to prosecute them.
“I filed a report with the police in Muncie and [with the] FBI, but was told not to expect too much — that these things don’t usually get solved and people don’t get their stuff back because it’s hard to track,” Pierce said.
Craigslist and other transactions set up online also can be done in person, but that doesn’t always mean they are safe. On Oct. 29, 2013, a shot was fired in an attempted robbery at the intersection of University Avenue and Reserve Street. Two men met up to sell a laptop after meeting online, but one tried to rob the other. Ball State issued an emergency text response telling students to use caution when setting up sales online.
A study conducted by the Advanced Interactive Media Group, consultants in interactive media and classified advertising, found there were 330 crimes, 12 murders and 105 robberies or assaults associated with Craigslist deals by examining nationwide crime reports in local media coverage from February 2010 until February 2011.
Rhonda Clark, University Police Department captain, said the department occasionally receives calls about Craigslist scams and that finding success is often case specific and depends on the information available.
Clark said students should be most concerned with protecting personal information and their safety. If a deal seem too good to be true, it likely is.
Other online marketplaces, like eBay, use approved payment methods like PayPal or Skrill to help avoid scams. Since Craigslist leaves payment up to the individuals making the deal, it is easier for criminals to take advantage of people.
However, crimes associated with selling goods online don’t stop business. Craigslist has nearly 60 million users each month, according to the website.
Pierce said she would consider selling her stuff online again, but she would look more closely at the website’s recommended precautions.