Craigslist and other online classified sites let users easily buy and sell items with strangers.
But the convenience carries an element of danger, as evidenced by several high-profile Craigslist-related crimes in Georgia, including the shooting deaths of James Earl Jones Jr. and Bud and June Runion in 2015 and Daniel John Zeitz three months before.
Earlier this month, a Douglas County, GA, family said movers they hired from Craigslist vanished with their belongings instead of hauling them to their new home.
- Insist on a public meeting place, such as a cafe, bank or police station.
- Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.
- Be especially careful when buying or 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.
Many city and county agencies provide safe spots to meet.
“If they don’t want to meet you (in a public place), that should be a red flag indicating that you do not want to conduct business with that person,” Roswell police posted on the department’s Facebook page in January 2015, shortly after Bud and June Runion were killed.
Smyrna, Georgia, police provide "Operation Safe Sale" 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can provide an officer to witness any transactions, as well as check to see if the items in question, including cars, were reported stolen or lost.
"These transactions are risky," Smyrna police told WABE. "Just adding this one more step is just kind of like a no-brainer to us."
A similar program, called "Meet, Screen, Exchange," provides a "safe haven" at the department in Marietta, GA.
"Personal safety is more important than getting a great deal, especially when the deal may turn out to be a ruse to isolate someone in order to rob them," police said in a statement.
No appointment is necessary, because the department is always open, and the service is free of charge.
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Todd Duncan, David Gibson and Alexis Stevens contributed to this story