Free Online Ads Lead To Free-For-All

Ever use Craigslist to sell something? Here’s some of our experience: a couch sold in 25 minutes, and some of an elderly relative’s furniture not sold at all. It’s a mixed bag for everybody.

craigslist.jpgCraig’s bright idea- and other online selling venues that cost little or nothing- are one of the reasons newspapers have thinned out (for a dramatic example, see today’s Syracuse Post Standard). Classified ads are their bread and butter, and those ads are becoming fewer. Of course other news sources, like the computer screen you’re reading now, are also a factor.

Even for users, there are times when free online ads go terribly wrong. Take the case of Laurie Ray in Tacoma, Washington. Earlier this spring, after she had moved to a new address, a Craigslist post said everything in her old house was up for grabs:

“House being demolished… Come and take whatever you want, nothing is off limits. Items outside and garage will be open for access into house. Please help yourself to anything on property at 1202 East 64th Street. Tacoma.”

Within a week, the unoccupied house at that address in Tacoma, Wash., had been picked clean. Living room window? Gone. Water heater? Gone. Kitchen sink? Naturally.

Now the matter has moved from Craigslist to Superior Court, where Ms. Ray’s niece, Nichole Marie Blackwell, 28, is to appear next week to face charges of burglary, malicious mischief and criminal impersonation.

The New York Times

Carrying on a family feud, Blackwell used her aunt’s computer to post the ad, so no fraud was detected by the ad site. The niece apparently stole much of the property from Ray’s house herself.

Well, maybe when hate or greed are the motivators, people can find away around almost any kind of online security. But the upside of online ads remains so great, that cases like the Tacoma ripoff are just little bumps in the road for the free ad sites and their users.


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