Are personal ads on Craigslist safe?

By Curt Autry - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Investigators in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts continue to look for more victim's of the man police have dubbed the Craigslist killer. This case has prompted many people to re-think answering or placing personal ads on the popular website.

The ads Philip Markoff answered were in the personals section on Craigslist and erotic in nature and as the Markoff investigation continues, one local man who routinely meets people through the personals tells us the practice is still safe - if you play it smart.

He's been dubbed the Craigslist killer. Philip Markoff is charged with violence and sex crimes in two states.

Authorities say surveillance photos show Markoff in Warwick, Rhode Island at a Holiday Inn Express on the night of April 16. The same night the former Boston University Medical student allegedly tried to rob a stripper at gunpoint. A woman, police say, he met on Craigslist. The stripper later told police her attacker tied her up but ran away when her husband entered the room.

Left behind, investigators say, a trail of evidence, including Markoff's fingerprints as well as text messages from Markoff's cell phone sent from the crime scene.

"Count one is assault with intent to rob. Count two, assault with a dangerous weapon. Count three, possession of a handgun. Count four is use of a firearm while committing a crime of violence," said Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch.

"There are certain sections on the site where you can list if you're looking directly for sex," said Greg.

But that's not what this young man claims he's after. We'll call him "Greg" and he recently posted an ad on Craigslist. It reads "I have not been out of the closet too long and I am looking for some guy friends."

Greg says he's met at least four men from his ad. He says he gets to know the person on-line and then takes some very special precautions before meeting in person.

"I always tell a friend where I'm going, what I'm doing, who I'm gonna be with, the story (and) what's going on. I make sure we meet in a public place, where if something does go down I can just walk away," said Greg.

Greg says the mall is a good place to meet. He suggests you google the name of the person you're meeting, and do the best background check that you can online. He also advises to keep the meetings very public for the first few times.

"As long as there are other people there, I know that I have an out, and I can take a bow out if I have to," Greg said.

And it's possible the erotic Craigslist ads could soon disappear. The South Carolina attorney general is threatening to prosecute the CEO of Craigslist, alleging the company has violated an agreement with 40 states, to improve safeguards.

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