Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Beware of Strangers (A Craigslist Story)

     Beware of strangers, my parents taught me.  They did a very good job of embedding this lesson in my brain.  I've always been on the cautious side.  The type of woman who leaves every light in the house on at night when I'm home alone or with my kids.  I double check that my doors and windows are locked.  I wait to hear that familiar beep of my cars horn 2-3 times before I feel completely sure my doors are really locked.  Check my backseat when getting in my car alone at night.  I've never left a bar (or anywhere else) with someone I just met. I wear a cross-body bag with all my important info in it when I travel. I've even taken self-defensive (albeit a long time ago) I would never send money at the request of an email, and I never take checks or money orders when I'm selling something.  I know that not all people are good, and that some people would much rather take what they want rather then work for it.  However, I am still a somewhat trusting individual, and I tend to take people at face value.  I believe what they tell me once I've talked to them a few times.  And I've always thought that despite my bad luck in the crime victim department, most people really are good, honest people.

     Labor Day, one of my favorite summer holiday weekends.  This year we had a bit of a family reunion and it was so wonderful to see all those family members I haven't seen in so long.  I wish I would have taken their advice about my plans for Monday though.  Dave and I recently decided that we'd like to get a new vehicle.  My current vehicle isn't very economic, and we feel we can manage in something a little smaller and at least a little more gas friendly.  And when I saw an ad on Craigslist for the exact vehicle we want, for a lot less then blue book value, I was so excited!  But I was apprehensive too.  Why would they sell this almost new car for so much less then its worth.  I called the seller and asked about the car, asked if its been taken care of, asked if there are any problems with it, asked him why he was selling it.  To which he gave me all the right answers, and he was selling the car because it belonged to his mother who passed away this year and he and his family decided that they could use the money more then they needed the car.  The only thing I wasn't crazy about was that the car was located in Gary, IN, about 3 hours from our home.  Now if you've never heard of Gary, let me tell you its reputation isn't good.  I've heard lots of things about this city near Chicago over the years, and driven past it on the highway enough times to believe the rumors.  The highest crime rate in the US, the "armpit" of America. Those aren't my words, just what I've heard.  And these are the reasons why my family didn't want us to go at all.  But this just led me to believe this story even more.  I mean a city like that, probably is a poor city, so it would make since this man would want money over a new SUV, and it would also make since that the car hadn't been sold in the first 5 minutes of posting, because it was probably hard for most people in that area to come by almost $13,000.  This was how I rationalized it, anyway.  So I made some calls to our bank and set up the financing, and if all went well and this car wasn't a lemon, I was going to buy it.  Thank goodness it's our bank's policy to not give out money unless all parties are present at closing in person at a branch location!

     So early Monday morning my husband, myself, and a very close friend who also happens to be a great mechanic set out to go get this car.  We arrived at the address the seller gave me, and we didn't see the vehicle anywhere.  So I tried to call him and text him, and he replied saying he was on his way.  So the 3 of us are parked along side of the street, leaning up against my husbands beat up old 1990 Buick.  We drove that one, I mean, because it is Gary afterall!!  And several minutes go by and still no sign of the seller.  We notice a man on the corner talking on his phone, and we notice 2 men walk down the middle of the cross street down by us.  Several cars go by, still nothing.  We notice we are right by the baseball stadium and the fire department.  Still nothing.  And at this point I think all 3 of were thinking we should just get in the car and leave, this guy wasn't showing.  I started to feel a little uneasy.  So I said a quick prayer asking God to protect us and keep us safe from harm, offered an Our Father, and waited just a few more seconds before a man approached us.  He was walking and he was one of the guys that had passed us walking a few minutes earlier.  I knew he was coming up to us and I had the most sickening feeling in my stomach.  I was expecting him to offer to sell us drugs, or to ask us if we had some he could by.  Or something to that effect.  The thought never crossed my mind of what he was about to do.  He walked right up to us, close enough to shake his hand, and he said,  "Check this out."  And he pulled a 9mm handgun from his pocket and told us to give him our money and our phones.  We stood there shocked, I finally said we didn't have any money.  He took my purse and my husbands wallet anyway and our phones.  And he walked away.  He didn't run, he didn't even walk fast.  He clearly wasn't the least bit concerned with what he just did.  We drove across the street to the fire department and they called the police for us.  We waited there and talked to an officer.  Not a lot they can do, our stuff is gone forever.  But he did tell us that when we do business on Craigslist, we should call ahead and request an officer meet us at whatever location we've agreed to meet the other party.  Whether we are buying or selling either way.  I wish someone had told me this was an option before then.  I'm precautious, I would have had an officer meet us there in a heartbeat.  I will from now on for every sale. 

     And this is why I am making this post.  I know my blog gets a lot of views, and I want to tell everyone so that they can be safe when dealing with Craigslist too. Please be careful, friends.

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