Craigslist and other such Internet services allow you to easily buy and sell goods to strangers -- a convenience that carries a twin element of danger, as evidenced by several recent Craigslist-related crimes, including the shooting deaths of James Earl Jones Jr. earlier this week, Bud and June Runion in January and Daniel John Zeitz in September.
Officials across the metro Atlanta area have encouraged people to shop smart online, and to follow these tips:
- Insist on a public meeting place, such as cafe or bank or police station.
- Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.
- Be especially careful when buying/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.
“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 recently on the department’s Facebook page.
Many metro city and county agencies -- including Holly Springs, Kennesaw, Marietta, Smyrna and Snellville; and Cobb -- provide safe spots to meet.
For example, Smyrna police provide "Operation Safe Sale" 24/7, and can provide an officer to witness any transactions, as well as check to see if the items in question (even cars) were 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."
On Friday, Marietta police announced a similar program, called "Meet, Screen, Exchange," which provides a "safe haven" at the department.
"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," they said in a statement.
No appointment is necessary, as the department is always open, and the service is free of charge.
Do you know of any businesses or public agencies that offer themselves as a safe place for online transactions? Comment here or email email@example.com.
Todd Duncan, David Gibson and Alexis Stevens contributed to this story