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Craigslist Scam Update: Six Months Later

The two posts on this blog with the most staying power, drawing comments week in and week out, come from an experience with Craigslist.

Like, oh, about a couple billion people, I'm a big fan of the site. I'm now living in the second of two apartments I've found through Craigslist. Soon after I first moved to Manhattan early this decade, I kept tabs on local event listings and went to a few where I met some great groups of people, like a couple who hosted a pickup kickball game in Central Park. When I've moved, Craigslist has been a great way to get rid of some furniture and other miscellany that I might have needed to toss otherwise.

Yet everything that's open about the web attracts people who try to abuse it. One such scam that came to my attention was the result of a fluke, where two people I knew were accosted by the same scammer (or group of scammers). They figured out it was a scam only after randomly mentioning it to each other, and then one of them told me. They then gave me permission to post it on my blog, leaving out their personal details, as a way to attract others.

The post that resulted was this Craigslist Real Estate Scam Alert, posted six months ago this week. It has since attracted about 70 comments, and it led to a second post, Craigslist Real Estate Scam Alert - Another Version, which has attracted even more people weighing in with their stories.

Most people who comment share some sort of information about the scam they received, and it provides this snowball effect, as the post now appears in search engine results for an ever-growing roster of scammers, along with their addresses and phone numbers. I've noticed that a number of visits to my blog come from people searching for one of those numbers. See the MediaPost column recap on How SEO Can Stop a Scammer for more.

I met Craig Newmark when he appeared at an event to launch the book Accidental Branding by David Vinjamuri (he's one of the entrepreneurs featured in the book - a great read, I might add). I asked him about the scam, and he's of course well aware of it; he's even worked with Federal authorities to try to combat it, but there's little the US can do about the Nigerian-based fraudsters.

There is something bloggers can do, and anyone who's sharing any kind of content online. We can share it with others, first to help it spread through word of mouth, and more importantly so it stays out there for when people need to find it.