8 On Your Side: How to avoid scammers and criminals on Craigslist

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) –  With the help of sites like Craigslist and eBay, criminals are expanding their digital territory to scam, rob, and sometimes kill their victims.

Gary Boehm buys and sells on Craigslist.  “I do use eBay, Reverb.com, but those are paid sites,” says the Oldsmar man who buys, sells, and trades online. He likes using Craigslist because it’s free to use.

But for other sellers, the meet-ups have turned out to be deadly.

James Beck was shot and killed in front of his son January 31 in Tampa while meeting a possible buyer for their dirt bike. Two teens were arrested for the murder.

A few days earlier, a Lakeland man had a gun placed to his head when he met a buyer selling a car on the Letgo app.

Last September, five teens lured a handyman with an online ad and stole his car.  Those teens were arrested.

And there’s the constant stream of victims who fall for buying counterfeit tickets to events, like the NCAA National College Football Championship in Tampa Bay.

As long as Gary’s been dealing online, he’s seen scams and fakes looking to score an easy hit.

“I can tell them immediately that they’re screwing around. Their verbiage is off. They never speak proper English,” says Gary.

“They usually feel pretty ashamed of themselves for falling for the scam. It’s not like these people are stupid people,” says Detective Darren Hill who investigates economic crimes in Pasco County.

News Channel 8 asked Hill if he thinks scammers have gotten more involved, more complex over the years.

“Oh, absolutely. They’ve been doing their research. When they conduct these scams they seem to know a lot more about the area that they’re calling about even when they’re out of state. Individuals know the street names where they want to have someone meet someone else,” he says.

Not wanting to deal in person, in cash, or in a public place are just a few red flags.

Above all else, Gary says he trusts his gut when deciding whether to meet someone.

“The most important thing. They will never, ever talk to you on the phone. So if you can’t talk to them on the phone forget it.”

Buyers and sellers should watch out for these red flags:

  • Not wanting to deal in person
  • Not wanting to deal in cash
  • Not wanting to meet in a public place
  • Check vin numbers of cars, boats, trailers, etc. You can call law enforcement to see if it is stolen.
  • Meet somewhere public where there are cameras, witnesses, etc.

If buyers or sellers are coming to your house, have them send you a picture of themselves and a picture of their driver’s license with sensitive information redacted. When they knock on your door, you can confirm it is the same person.


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