The California couple thought they were buying a Mercedes-Benz through Craigslist, says the San Francisco Chronicle. After meeting the seller at a transit station, they climbed in the back seat of the luxury car and were driven to their bank, where they withdrew $8,500 to complete the deal. Minutes later, the seller picked up a second man – and that’s when the guns came out. The Fremont couple – forced out of the car and stranded on a freeway – had just become victims of one of a growing list of Craigslist robberies, dubbed by police “robberies by appointment.”
It’s a worrisome trend that has prompted renewed warnings from authorities, who say the criminals have been especially busy over the last few months. In Berkeley, police say, four victims hoping to buy cars off the popular Internet site have been robbed at gunpoint since June, possibly by the same two men. “It’s unfortunate that a tool such as Craigslist is being used to target people,” said Officer Jennifer Coats, a Berkeley police spokeswoman. Craigslist, while deploring the criminal use of its site, says such activity is “extremely low” in the context of the millions of transactions that take place without a hitch. Some criminals are “taking advantage of the new technology,” said Lt. Pat Halleran of the Belmont Police Department.