Mundane Movements: Making CraigsList Transactions Less Murdery

They planned to drive about 200 miles from their Cobb County home to look at an antique car for sale. But the vintage Ford Mustang didn’t exist.

After four days of searching, investigators said Monday afternoon that two bodies believed to be the couple were found in southeast Georgia…

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/suspect-in-custody-in-case-of-missing-marietta-cou/njxGW/

Craigslist can be a great resource to pick up used goods for not much money. But obviously, it has been used to setup many robberies and some murders. When high dollar items are involved, the other party knows you’ll either have a valuable item or a pocket full of cash. Scumbags can’t resist easy money.

This one happened near me, so I wanted to write my thoughts. It’s not difficult to find ‘how to not get ripped off on Craigslist’ lists out there. Here’s a couple:

This one deals with the electronic security side:

http://netsecurity.about.com/od/advancedsecurity/a/How-To-Stay-Safe-On-Craigslist.htm

This one makes mention of the in-person, physical side of security:

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_20605127/how-be-safe-craigslist-precautions

Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe.

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 to meet some-one you contacted through Craigslist.

Take your cellphone along with you.

Consider having a friend accompany you during Craigslist purchases.

Trust your instincts.

This is good advice. It’s very vague and hand-wavy advice, but good. Since ‘be especially careful’ is completely non-actionable advice, I’ll try to get a bit more specific to guide you to safer CL transactions. I won’t pussy foot around. I will tell you the most secure way to do a CL transaction. It will involve carrying guns. This is probably something your local newspaper will fail to include in their article about CL security. Mine will augment and detail some of the points from the above list.

  • Tell a third party friend the time and place of the transaction, and give them the phone number that the CL buyer/seller gives you. The bad guy in the above article used a burner phone, but not all bad guys are smart like that.
  • Always take a friend.
  • Always take a gun and wear it concealed during the transaction.
  • Always make sure your friend has a gun too. Discuss your plan if something goes south.
  • When talking to the seller/buyer, have them describe their car ‘so you can spot them coming’. Whether you are early, or late, you can keep an eye for their vehicle and any extra passengers or vehicles.
  • Always plan to arrive 5-10 minutes late (or early) to the transaction. If you’re late, you can pull a quick surveillance run around the parking lot where the transaction will take place. It also will give you an excuse to get a description of the buyer/seller vehicle before you arrive. If you get there early, you have the advantage of monitoring all incoming vehicles to the parking lot and will be able see the number of occupants and if there is more than one vehicle making the same movements in the lot. Look for the number of people in the buyer/seller car and if there are any adjacent vehicles where people are paying attention to you.
  • Use Police Station’s parking lots when possible. If that’s not possible, pick the most public and heavily trafficked lot you can think of. Walmart, Mcdonalds lots, etc. If someone is asking you to meet them at 2am, it might not be a great idea.
  • When you make the transaction, take a page out of the cop’s playbook. Use a ‘contact/cover’ type arrangement. Average Joe won’t notice that your friend is casually leaning on your car or walking around in adjacent parking spots during the transaction. While you’re doing the deal, have your friend outside of the car feigning a phone call or just looking around. Here’s a photo I found of the police technique. One officer is the contact officer who deals with the person, and the other just sort of watches. Think of this when you run a high dollar CL transaction. (1/30 edited this section to clarify).
  • Helmets optional.
  • As you leave, remain aware of people or vehicles moving around your car. Also keep an eye on your rear view mirrors for a few minutes to see if any other cars are tailing you.

All of these steps add zero time to your transaction, take longer to read than perform, and will keep you much safer. I realize it reads like paranoia and like I think I’m a Mall Ninja. It’s hard to convey the tactics any other way, or I would. I realize the probability of you getting robbed/murdered during a CL transaction are very slim, but it’s trivial to add a few precautions that can help guarantee you prevail in the event of a robbery. Besides, statistics are a small comfort when you find yourself to be the rare exception.

Contrast the above story to the one that happened TODAY 1/30/15, also in Georgia.

Parish said the breeder, identified in the DeKalb police incident report as 40-year-old Walter Gonzalez, was initially hesitant to meet the buyer late at night at the home, but did so after the suspect offered him an additional $500.

When the breeder and a second Winder man, Salvador Burgos, arrived with the dog, they saw the suspect and another man standing outside by the garage.

“Mr. Gonzalez got out of the vehicle and met with the suspect near the vehicle,” the incident report states. “After Mr. Gonzalez showed the suspect the dog, the suspect drew his weapon on him.”

According to the report, the suspect, whose name has not been released, then demanded that Burgos get out of the vehicle.

“Mr. Burgos stated that as he moved over from the driver’s side to the passenger side of the vehicle, he drew his firearm and fired upon the suspect,” the report states.

Gonzalez and Burgos told police they left the scene because they were afraid that the other man that was with the suspect would return, but stopped a short distance away and called police.

Responding officers found the suspect dead in the front yard of the home.

So our good guy took a friend…with a gun…and didn’t get killed and put the bad guy in the ground.

Which story do you want written about you? Planning isn’t paranoia.

Stay Safe and go get a sweet deal on a used treadmill,

Defensive Daddy.

Note: Edited 1/30/15 with a new news story and clarification of the tactics I mention.

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