Crime And Criminals Blog - Crimes, criminals, scams and frauds.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Tacoma woman's house emptied after craigslist hoax

TACOMA, Wash. -- Many people have had success buying, selling and swapping goods on the Web site craigslist, but one Tacoma woman says she was robbed.

Laurie Raye said she had everything stripped from her home after someone placed a fake ad on the San Francisco-based Internet site, a collection of online classifieds.

"The instigator who published this ad invited the public to come in and vandalize me," Raye told Seattle television station KING.

Raye had recently evicted a tenant and cleaned out the rental.

The ad posted last week welcomed people to take for free anything they wanted from the home. It has since been pulled from the site, but not before the residence was stripped of light fixtures, the hot water heater and the kitchen sink.

Neighbors said they saw strangers hauling items away, apparently looking for salvage material.

Even the front door and a vinyl window were pilfered, Raye said.

"In the ad, it said come and take what you want. Everything is free," she said. "Please help yourself to anything on the property."

Raye said she contacted craigslist and received an e-mail saying officials would need a subpoena or search warrant to release information about who posted the ad.

On Thursday, Jim Buckmaster, chief executive officer at craigslist, said officials "have released all the information we have" about the ad.

It was posted last Friday and was on the site for less than two hours before it was flagged down by users, Buckmaster said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

He said craigslist rarely encounters such false postings, despite receiving 25 million postings each month.

The company does strive to prevent false postings, however.

"It's as difficult to prevent crime online as it is offline, but we do work closely with law enforcement," Buckmaster said.

The online hoax isn't unusual, investigators said.

"We've had a lot of scams off of craigslist," Tacoma police Detective Gretchen Ellis told KING. "We've had prostitution things happen, rental scams, fraudulent activity. In this case, it appeared the items were going to be given away, but they were not."

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