East Bay police say several people in recent weeks have responded to ads on Craigslist expecting to peruse a used car, but were instead robbed at gunpoint -- in one case, of $6,500.
The Berkeley Police Department has logged four such incidents since late June, and has been working with other agencies to head off further crimes, said Officer Byron White.
"A few crime prevention measures ... may help reduce the risk of becoming a victim," White said in an email message. "Be aware of locations and situations, which make you more vulnerable to crime such as alleys, doorways, parking lots, stairwells and unfamiliar areas."
Police urge Craigslist buyers to meet in a public, well-populated area. One agency recommends the parking lot of a fast food eatery, which tend to be continuously busy. KTVU reports that in Oakland, officers even suggested the police department as a meeting spot.
Other tips include these:
- Don't meet with anybody who says he or she won't be the one meeting with you.
- Ask for a name and address before you head out. Look online to get a match between the two if possible.
- Don’t go alone.
- Don’t bring cash. Tell the seller you will pay with a cashier’s check – at your bank.
- Keep all electronics and other valuables out of view and secured.
Some advise against buying a car (or other valuables) through Craigslist. While many have successfully bought and sold cars and other equipment through the online service, some, including veteran automotive journalist Keith Griffin, say it is too vulnerable to scam artists.
White urges victims to call police immediately, and to get a suspect description, direction of flight, any associated vehicles and vehicle license plate number.
Anyone with information about the Craigslist robberies is asked to contact the BPD Investigations Division – Robbery Detail at (510) 981-5742 or the 24-hour BPD Non Emergency number of (510) 981-5900.