The Berkeley Police Department sent out crime prevention warnings to the public earlier this month in response to a series of armed robberies involving victims who arranged to meet with sellers from Craigslist.
Since June, Berkeley police have received four such reports, all of which were for the sale of vehicles. The robberies occurred after the victims arrived at a designated meeting location between the hours of 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Similar incidents have occurred in Oakland within the last several weeks. Victims were lured by Craigslist ads featuring vehicles as well as other items, including electronics, and were robbed at gunpoint after arriving at the meeting place, according to a public safety advisory released by the Oakland Police Department.
“Right now (the cases) are still under investigation,” said Berkeley police spokesperson Jennifer Coats. “We don’t know if the Oakland and Berkeley cases are related.”
For some UC Berkeley students, Craigslist, the popular online community of sellers and buyers, becomes a tool for finding roommates or housing in the neighborhood.
“You’ve just got to be smart about it, like with any other websites,” said Erica Posey, a UC Berkeley junior who has used Craigslist for apartment hunting in the past.
Posey said she has never had a problem with the website up until this summer, when she received a number of spam emails from people outside the country and one from an inmate at a state penitentiary as a result of listings on the site.
Given the possibility of fraud, Posey said she would advise potential Craigslist posters not to include phone numbers or addresses.
“Try to be as minimal as possible, and be careful when responding,” she said.
For extra precaution, Posey said she familiarized herself with the area and brought a friend along when looking at apartments.
Craigslist acknowledges potential scams and provides a list of tips for avoiding scams and examples of fraud on its website.
The Berkeley Police Department encourages community members to employ prevention measures, including using extra caution and not carrying large amounts of cash when conducting business with unknown individuals, to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of these armed robberies.
Weiru Fang is the assistant city news editor.
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