A Charlotte man was ecstatic when someone replied to his ad on Craigslist in search of a cheap but dependable car to drive to work. When the apparent seller showed up, as soon as the buyer said he had the money, a second man rushed into the apartment, pointing a handgun. “Give me the money!” the armed man shouted, reports the Charlotte Observer. One suspect pulled the cash out of the man’s wallet and grabbed his cellphone. Similar “robbery-by-appointments” have become a growing problem since classified ad websites like Craigslist have become popular online sources to buy or sell anything from pets to electronics and cars.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Capt. Mike Smathers said police investigate at least one crime a month involving a Craigslist connection. Sometimes, the victim posts something for sale on the website, and a suspect responds with the intention of robbing the seller when they meet. In other cases, a suspect will post an ad and make arrangements to meet a buyer, but instead robs the person of the money they’d planned to use to purchase the item. “They’re baiting them with the likelihood of getting a set amount of money,” Smathers said. The items involved in Craigslist transactions-gone-bad are usually electronics. When vehicles are used as bait, the suspect may be able to rob someone of thousands of dollars. “That’s a lot of money for a street robbery,” Smathers said.