Crooks using Craigslist for scams

As San Franciscans hunt for holiday bargains, some shoppers have found that items advertised on Craigslist can be a steal — literally.

Following a rash of theft reports in The City related to the popular website, police are pleading for consumers to use common sense when shopping online this holiday season.

“People become a little bit too comfortable with Internet use,” said police Lt. Troy Dangerfield.

During the past month, a handful of residents have filed police reports claiming they spotted items for sale on Craigslist that had been stolen from them, police said.

On Nov. 11, a Forest Hills woman said a kayak and accompanying equipment swiped from her parents’ backyard earlier in the week had been posted for sale on the website.

That same day, another woman told police the rims of her car had been stripped in the Excelsior district during the dark hours of the morning. She said later that day she saw the rims advertised on Craigslist, police said.

A day after that report, a man who bought a car from a Craigslist seller discovered it had been stolen. He met with the seller, bought the car then drove it to his home in the Outer Sunset district. At home, he had a closer look at the paperwork and became suspicious, police said.

Police confirmed the car had been stolen.

Some Craigslist users have landed in dangerous situations when meeting a buyer or seller in person for transactions. On Nov. 18, for instance, a 20-year-old woman hoping to sell her computer on Craigslist agreed to meet a potential buyer in the Tenderloin district around 1 a.m.

The “buyer” robbed the woman at gunpoint, police said.

“If you’re going to shop on Craigslist and meet people, make sure to do it in a public place,” Dangerfield said.

A busy coffee shop is a good meeting place, he said. Also, bring a friend along, and never invite anyone into your home, he added.

Cops say they often monitor Craigslist during robbery cases, particularly when investigating bike thefts, which occur daily in The City.

It is hard to know if there’s been an uptick in theft activity on Craigslist, police say, as many incidents go unreported.

Crime in the 21st century

Craigslist has become a tool for criminals, as a recent string of crimes in the Bay Area have used the website to target victims or sell stolen goods.

Oct. 13

  • San Bruno man receives four-year prison sentence for stealing money from at least 33 people who thought they bought cheap airline tickets on Craigslist.

Nov. 11

  • Woman files police report saying the rims of her car were up for sale on Craigslist the same day they were stripped
  • Woman files police report saying kayak stolen from backyard of parents’ home was up for sale on Craigslist

Nov. 12

  • Outer Sunset man files report saying he purchased car on Craigslist that had been stolen

Nov. 18

  • 20-year-old woman robbed at gunpoint after meeting a “buyer” who wanted to purchase her computer.

Source: Police Department

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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