This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
For the family of Jim Sanders, the worst is over.
They had to endure four separate trials, but in the end, three men and one woman were convicted of terrorizing the Edgewood family and killing Sanders on an April night last year. The last co-conspirator will be sentenced next week. If any of them ever get out of prison, they will be very, very old.
But Sanders’ widow and two sons will always have the terrible memory of that night – of having their home invaded, of being tied up and beaten. Their beloved husband and father is gone forever, all because the good-hearted Sanders trusted that a young woman was who she said she was – a daughter who wanted to buy a ring for her mother that Sanders had advertised on Craigslist.
Many of us probably would have been just as willing to invite a young woman into our home. What happened to the Sanders family could have happened to anyone who is of a trusting nature, who doesn’t readily suspect the darkness that can lurk in some hearts.
The Sanders family’s tragedy should be an object lesson to anyone who is selling or buying a product or service online. Moral: Always assume that there’s a chance the person making contact is out to rob you. Unfortunately, it’s happened all too often recently:
• In March, a Lakewood man who had advertised an iPad tablet computer on Craigslist was robbed at gunpoint in Puyallup – at 1:30 in the afternoon. Three men were arrested.
• In September 2010, a Tacoma teenager was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint late at night after he met two men who said they wanted to buy the car he had advertised on Craigslist.
• In July 2010, two teens tried to rob a man who had advertised his iPhone on Craigslist. Unfortunately for the teens, the man was armed and held them at gunpoint until police arrived.
To avoid being robbed, meet the responding party in a public place, preferably during daylight and with a friend or family member present. When selling an expensive item, meet at the buyer’s bank for the exchange. When buying an expensive item, don’t take cash; agree to meet at your bank for the exchange. If the buyer or seller won’t agree, end the negotiation.
Being targeted for robbery or other violent crime isn’t the only way a person can be victimized. Financial scams abound online and have increased in the bad economy.
For instance, someone might respond to an ad for a rental home and pay the security deposit and first- and last-months’ rent. Only the person who placed the ad doesn’t own the home. A victim might send money for an item and never receive it. Or a “buyer” offers to pay more than the asking price if the seller will accept a cashier’s check or money order. The seller sends the item, but the payment never arrives or is counterfeit.
What happened to the Sanders family was the worst-case scenario in Internet crime. Their tragedy should serve as a reminder to always be on guard when transacting business that began with an online ad.