Lori Getz: It has happened again: A Craigslist posting has led to a violent death. This isn't the first time, and I'm afraid it won't be the last if we continue to let our guard down on the Internet. In the physical world, we don't invite total strangers we've known for 20 seconds into our homes where our children are playing -- yet we allow common sense to fly out the window when we meet people in the cyber world.
As momlogic has previously reported, a terrible crime occurred on April 28, 2010, in Edgewood, Washington, when three men and a woman came to James Sanders' family home in answer to an ad he'd placed on Craigslist (he was selling a diamond ring). The intruders shot and killed Sanders in front of his wife and two sons. It's heartbreaking.
It's VITAL that we begin to implement the same common-sense rules in the cyber world that we use in the physical world. Exchanging goods online can be a perfectly safe experience if you just follow two simple rules:
1) Create a pseudo-identity. Anytime you use a website wherein you interact with strangers online, you need to set up a safe account. Never include personal information (such as your address or home phone number) in the ad. Set up an e-mail account that does not identify you by name. If you are going to invite people to call you, you may want to think about creating a Google Voice number. It's easy and free, and can be done without revealing who you really are and where you live.
2) Create a safe environment. It is NEVER a great idea to invite a total stranger into your home. Whenever possible, meet the buyer in a public place and bring a friend! The public place should be a highly populated location or even a police-station parking lot. Also, make sure someone other than the person you are with knows where you are going and who you are meeting. If you are selling something big, like a couch, that's a tough one .... My gut reaction is to tell you that it's better to be safe than sorry. Craigslist may not be the place to sell an item like this if you can't move it to a public location.
There are plenty of good, honest people in this world; obviously, not everyone on Craigslist is dangerous. In fact, thousands of items are safely bought and sold online every year. But when it comes to the safety of you and your family, you'll have to decide how much risk you're willing to take!