Via the Associated Press, a sad example of what can happen when people don’t don their thinking caps on the internets (or in life, for that matter):
Man scammed by Craigslist ad
JACKSONVILLE, Ore. — A pair of hoax ads on Craigslist cost an Oregon man much of what he owned.
The ads popped up Saturday afternoon, saying the owner of a Jacksonville home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan.
But Robert Salisbury had no plans to leave. The independent contractor was at Emigrant Lake when he got a call from a woman who had stopped by his house to claim his horse.
On his way home he stopped a truck loaded down with his work ladders, lawn mower and weed eater.
“I informed them I was the owner, but they refused to give the stuff back,” Salisbury said. “They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did.”
The driver sped away after rebuking Salisbury. On his way home he spotted other cars filled with his belongings.
Once home he was greeted by close to 30 people rummaging through his barn and front porch.
The trespassers, armed with printouts of the ad, tried to brush him off. “They honestly thought that because it appeared on the Internet it was true,” Salisbury said. “It boggles the mind.”
Jacksonville police and Jackson County sheriff’s deputies arrived but by then several cars packed with Salisbury’s property had fled.
He turned some license plate numbers over to police.
Michelle Easley had seen the ad that claimed Salisbury’s horse had been declared abandoned by the sheriff’s department and was free to a good home.
“I can’t stand to see a horse suffer so I drove out there and got her,” Easley said. “The horse didn’t look abandoned. She is in good shape for being 32 years old.”
But it looked odd, so she left a note on Salisbury’s door explaining the ad. She then decided to call to make sure the ad was legitimate when the second similar ad appeared.
“I feel bad because I was a part of it,” Easley said. “It felt right to call the police.”
Fagan praised Easley’s honestly but said prosecution was likely for anybody caught with Salisbury’s property.
Items can be returned with no questions asked, Fagan said.
Detectives have contacted Craigslist’s legal team to try to trace the ad.
And this isn’t the first time such a hoax has appeared on Craigslist, either.
So please, exercise caution when responding to ads placed on Freecycle, Craigslist and the like; if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you want to gift an item to someone in need, it’s probably best to give it directly to a non-profit organization. And don’t give out too much personal info to strangers, on- or off-list.
More safety tips here.