Craigslist has become one of the most popular sites on the Internet, In fact, it was recently reported that Craigslist was the fourth most-searched word on the web in the US in 2010. However, based on recent reports, the classified ad site may also be one of the most unsafe places on the Internet, particularly for kids. Consider these:
* A child prostitution ring was recently uncovered in Missoula, Mississippi which used Craigslist postings to solicit clients for underage prostitutes between the ages of sixteen and nineteen.
* No less than three killers have been dubbed by the media as Craigslist killers because they used postings on the site to find their victims. The most infamous of them was Philip Markoff, who was indicted for the armed robbery and murder of Julisa Brisman. Recently, however, a Long Island Craigslist killer emerged who may have killed at least four women, two of them prostitutes, and dumped their bodies on a deserted stretch of beach.
* Fake check scams continue to be prevalent on the site, with many sellers reporting that they are being contacted by fraudulent buyers who try to cheat them by sending them counterfeit checks for an amount larger than the selling price, then asking them to wire back the excess amount.
Concerns over the safety of Craigslist prompted Jessica Brock, a freelance web developer from St. Louis, Missouri, to be a responsible citizen and create a way to help deter prostitution/human trafficking and other criminal activity on the site. Brock came up with CraigGuard, which was inspired by the user rating system put in place by eBay to safeguard its users. The purpose of CraigGuard is simply to make the Net a safer place by helping root out dangerous posters on Craigslist. Although her initial purpose in creating the site was to help prevent bad sales, the focus of the site has expanded to helping prevent crimes.
The way the site works is simple. Users register to create an account on the site. They can then search the site’s database for dangerous posters using the name, location and other particulars. Alternately, if they have had a bad experience with a particular Craigslist user, they can also create their own report using the online report form, which will be posted in either the buyers or sellers report forum. Of course, it’s not all negative, since you can, and should, also post positive reports about users you’ve had good experiences with in order to encourage people to also deal with them. CraigGuard has already garnered positive media reports from outlets such as Fox News, CNET and The Wall Street Journal. While the site is still in its infancy, having gone online only in 2009, it has already received tens of thousands of unique visitors, and more are expected to log on and join as awareness about the site and its goals continues to grow. Brock sees the site as her small contribution to helping society and making the world a better place to live, and encourages people to be good citizens by using the site to help others.