What You Should Know Before Dealing With Strangers Online

May 13th, 2010

dangerHave you ever responded to an ad on a public forum website? Most of us have made a purchase, unloaded unwanted merchandise or contacted someone at least once after reading a post online.

It’s a wonderful system. People can make transactions with eager buyers or sellers in any city. Individuals offering jobs or looking for employment can find each other quickly. But there is a dark side to this enterprise . And it can be deadly.

Should You Agree To Meet?
The Internet makes it easy for you to get in touch with people who might be interested in what they have to offer. While this is very convenient, you may be putting yourself at risk.

In 2007, Katherine Ann Olson replied to an ad for a nanny position. She made an appointment to meet her prospective employer, but never returned. Her body was later found stuffed into the trunk of her car.

This case made national headlines and was deemed the first time someone was murdered after replying to an ad on Craigslist. It would not be the last.

Have Something To Sell?
As a seller, you usually have the option to ship an item to the buyer or meet in person. Always be careful about whom you invite into your home.

In April 2010, James and Charlene Sanders placed a Craigslist ad to sell a diamond ring. They received a response from an interested party and set up a time to discuss the sale at their house in Tacoma.

When the day came, the Sanders displayed the ring and agreed on a price. Before they could finish the deal, one of the visitors pulled out a gun.

The terrified couple was tied up, and their two sons were brought downstairs. The older boy arrived in time to witness his mother getting kicked in the head. He attempted to fight back. When the intruders began to beat the teenager, James Sanders freed himself and ran over to rescue his son.

Sanders’ heroic efforts were met with gunfire. He fell to the floor and died as his wife held him tightly in her arms. The criminals threatened to shoot Charlene next, but opted for a quick getaway instead. Four suspects have since been captured, and they await trial.

Know Whom You’re Dealing With
People who place or respond to ads often invite strangers into their homes. Even those who only complete transactions via the postal service often exchange addresses with people they don’t know. You must take steps to protect yourself, and your family.

Before you give away your address or agree to meet someone, run your own investigation. Many sites allow users to leave feedback about people they deal with personally. Start by reading these comments to learn about the other person’s reliability.

If someone appears to be worth dealing with, it’s time to dig deeper. Your next step is to order a Comprehensive Background Check. This is a report that provides intensive details about anyone, including their full name or aliases and whether or not they have a bankruptcy, tax lien or criminal record on file.

Did you know you can learn about anyone’s criminal history? This knowledge may help you decide whom you want to deal with, and whom you do not. A Nationwide Criminal Records Report shows you if someone has a misdemeanor or felony in their past, and gives you specific details about each offense if they do. It’s a great way to learn about someone before you get involved.

Of course not every predator has a criminal record. There is always potential for danger when you make contact with someone you don’t know.

If you frequently use online auctions, classified and forums, consider investing in a PO Box. If you agree to meet with a stranger, get together in a public location. The old adage is true: there is safety in numbers.

Using sites like Craigslist and EBay can lead to mutually beneficial experiences, but you must think about your own safety. Learn about people before you agree to deal with them, take every precaution to protect yourself online and in person, and thank you for reading the PeopleFinders People Search blog.

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One Response to “What You Should Know Before Dealing With Strangers Online”

  1. PeopleFinders.com says:

    Thanks Anna – these days we all need to be extra careful.

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