Archive for December 2018

There is always a large increase in “Help Me” Ads on CraigsList during the Holidays   Leave a comment

…And 7 out of 10 times, they are legit.

What I find most concerning is the cynicism and pessemism from people who have nothing better to do than judge people who turn to CraigsList as a last resort for help. On the one hand yes, there are the same scammers and botters based overseas who have been prowling CraigsList for years. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of people who use the site in general do use it as intended.

All that said, CraigsList is NOT a good website to turn to as a “Last Resort”. The reasons are five:

 

  1. It’s a wating game: One of the biggest myths people have about CL is if they post an ad, they will get a response very quickly. The reality is more often than not, you wasted your time posting the ad. Those who do get help are rhe exceptions and not the norm.
  2. Your ad will be flagged: “eople with absolutely nothing better to do with their time routinely flag ads they consider “Cyber Panhandling” or “Cyber Begging”.
  3. People will contact you just to judge you: More so if you’re a single mother/pregnant (“Where’s the father?”), unemployed (“Why don’t you get a job?”) or have pets (“Give up your cat/dog, then we’ll talk.”).
  4. If you’re a woman, expect to get solicited for Sex: Yes, there are guys that depraved that they will contact you looking for sex or a relationship and promise nothing in return.
  5. Scammers and Bots: Goes without saying. They are everywhere. You respond and then they say something to the effect of “Send me the deposit and I’ll mail you the key” or “Are you real? Email this email to prove you’re real”. This is to say nothing of those who didn’t get the memo the Personals section has been gone for 8 months now.

 

…These just scratch the surface and only barely. With CraigsList Personals gone, the lion’s share of “Help Me” Ads are posted in the Community (“Need Money/Items/Food or a Ride ASAP”.), For Sale (“Need Money/Items/Food ASAP”.), Resume (“Need a job or work ASAP”.) and Housing (“Need a Room/Apartment ASAP”.) Categories.

For those who still intend to try their luck looking for help on CraigsList, here are some general tips that should help:

 

  1. Keep the “Background Story” to a minimum: This is easily the biggest problem. Too many focus on explaining their situation and what led to them posting the ad but not enough time explaining what exactly they are looking for help with. Explain enough for folks to get an idea of your situation but no more than necessary. Save the details for after you make contact with someone.
  2. When looking for Housing, focus more on explaining what you are looking for: More so if you need to move ASAP. When I help folks with their housing search, I need 3 kinds of information: The max in monthly rent they can afford (For example $900), how many bedrooms and where (city, town, etc.) they are looking to live. Extra info that can help is if you’re on Section 8, have references or have the money to make a deposit right now. Leave out your background or family situation from the ad. Why? Because more often than not it will turn someone off from reaching out to you. Property Owners/Landlords only care about the other stuff I mentioned. If they’re not seeing much data in that regard, you wasted your time posting the ad.
  3. More often than not, insisting on keeping your pet will keep you from getting Housing: This isn’t a shot at pet owners or animal lovers but it is the reality and is not negotiable. It doesn’t matter if the landlord lives on the property and has pets themselves. They have the right to refuse you an apartment or room if you’re looking to bring a pet with you. No, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Service Animal either. If you don’t want to part with your pet, you’ll have to look elsewhere for a property owner willing to accomodate your pet.
  4. When looking for a Ride ASAP, include a phone number: No one’s going to wait for you to get back to them via email. Yes, botters and spammers harvest phone numbers to mass text people. Even so, someone who can help you won’t if they can’t get a way to hold of you as quickly as possible.
  5. If you’re in a relationship or have income, mention it in your Ad: This is to keep those looking for sex or a relationship at bay. 9 out of 10 times, when a woman posts an ad she will get unsolicited requests for sex and in many cases a lewd photo sent to them unprompted. If you mention you have income, you’re far less likely to have your ad flagged by people assuming you’re looking for a handout in general. If you mention you’re married or have a boyfriend/fiance, you’re far less likely to get unsolicited requests for sex or lewd photos in general.
  6. When selling, use pics of the actual item(s) not Amazon screenshots: Buyers get it, you want to prove the item is real and you’re selling it for less than retail value. At the same time, Buyers still need to see what condition the item(s) you’re selling is in. They can’t get that from an Amazon product page screenshot.
  7. When looking for work, include past work experience and what you’re looking to do: I cringe every time I see someone basically post “I’m looking for work, any kind of work please contact me ASAP”, then wonder why they only get Housing Ad Spammers or Sex Addicts contacting them. Include past work experience and/or skills you have that potential employers are looking for. Also, keep the “Background Story” to a minimum. Save it for when you actually make contact. Too many folks put everything into explaining their situation but little to none on their work experience and/or skills.
  8. Only post ONE ad per Need: We get it, you’re desperate or your situation is time sensitive. Posting 2 to 5 ads is what the botters do and it’s a fast way to get ALL of your ads flagged. Besides, even if you posted just one if someone decided not to respond then it won’t matter if you posted two or more.
  9. Include a phone number: I know all too well there are spammers and botters who harvest phone numbers posted via CraigsList to mass spam people. The site’s new Capcha (standard anti-scripting measure most high-traffic websites have started using to block bots) has merely slowed the practice but more needs to be done to protect private phone numbers and email addresses. Even so, include a working cell phone number and actually follow up even if just to say you’re not interested.
  10. Set up an Google Account just for CraigsList: You read that right. Why Gmail over Yahoo or Outlook (formerly Hotmail)? Well, most spam accounts use Yahoo mail first of all. Second, It has strong-anti-spam and anti-intrusion measures included for free. Plus you automatically get access to all Google Services for free. If you already have a Google account for personal and/or business use then you will just have two accounts is all. This way, you don’t have to worry about spam making it to your personal/business inbox. The bigger reason is to create an alias to protect your real identity.

 

…I can’t stress those last two enough and more so with the Porn sites, Cam Girls, Escort Services and similar sites that auto-reply to all ads posted to send spam to your inbox. Said emails are riddled with spyware and malware in addition to links to their sites where they hope to get enough info from you to either open a line of credit in your name or hack your account. Be smart and keep your real name off CraigsList.

With phone numbers, all I can say is block numbers that have nothing to do with whatever your ad is about. The spammers often group spam or spoof numbers so all you can do is block numbers individually. I tell folks in all my ads to text or email me because my phone is always on silent or vibrate. I also don’t answer when I see an out of state phone number. The “Text my number only” direction is also an anti-scam check. I know if an out of state number calls, they can’t follow simple directions or didn’t read my ad.

CraigsList is so saturated with scammers, botters and spammers that the “Are you real? Reply to this email to prove it” message is actually a check for other bots that auto-reply to ads or emails. DO NOT respond even if using CraigsList’s Anon-Relay system. All you do is confirm you’re not a bot and they will immediately send spam and other kinds of trash to your inbox. The more you respond, the more you confirm you’re a real person.

In the event you do get a spammer or scammer to email you, the only way to make them stop is to STOP responding to their emails. The reason is even if you block their email, they will simply use another one to keep emailing you. After 2, maybe 3 days max of silence they’ll get the message and leave you be.¬†They DON’T take no for an answer. Ever.

Having said all that, I now want to say something to those who see “Help Me” ads and either judge or assume things: Leave them be.

I have actually talked to many folks who post “Help Me” Ads and I can confirm their needs are 100% real. You don’t need to know their life story (I tell them the same thing) but if you can’t or don’t want to help them, hit Back and keep it moving. Everyone needs help sometimes and as most who post “Help Me” ad mention themselves, they turned to CraigsList as a last resort and out of desperation.

Always assume they tried other things before making an ad on CraigsList and more so given the site’s reputation. GoFundMe campaigns require media attention, a large social media following or a celebrity to have a chance at fundraising. Otherwise you wasted your time making the campaign at all. I’d know. Everyone posting such an ad on CraigsList already feels embarassed. They don’t need you contacting them just to remind them of how pathetic they feel. They already know the real odds of someone actually helping this is slim to none so…yeah.

I’d say if you’re that desperate for help, your best bet is to try Facebook groups. There are neighborhood and city groups on Facebook you can join and safely arrange to meet with people. There are also various neighborhood-based Help Groups you can find fairly quickly. That’s my advice to anyone feeling that desperate anyways.

 

EDIT 12/20/2018:

In an effort to curb people posting Personal Ads in the Community Category, a link to a reminder about FOSTA now appears when posting in the “Activity Partners” sub category. In the months since they removed their Personals Category earlier this year, many have simply started posting Personal Ads in the Community Section. I have noticed in CL sites for Atlanta, Miami, Raleigh, Memphis and Louisiana many Personal Ads have been flying under the radar for months. The site is clearly aware and is rushing to clean up the site before they are punished under the new law made specifically for that site.

A side effect to this I have found is offering help of any kind = Instant flagging. I am assuming CL doesn’t want to run the risk it’s a setup or a bait and switch. Even worse is when an ad is flagged and removed, it takes less flags when it’s reposted the next time and so on when it’s within a small amount of time. What that means for me is now I will hold off posting new Ads for a few months. The reason: Every time I post an ad in the Community section, it’s removed almost immediately. The only way to reset that is to stop posting for a while.

The long-term solution for CraigsList would be to bring back the Personals as a separate site with a separate set of rules. The problem is they are not willing to do that so…yeah. They don’t want the responsability and neither did Backpage. For those who don’t know, Backpage’s Escorts section was shut down after an FBI Investigation revealed prostitutes (Female and Male) were using it to find clients and Pimps were using the site to lure unsuspecting girls and women into prostitution.

CraigsList has a bit more anonmity but more than that, they hid behind the law protecting them from prosecution for crimes committed by third parties (users). With that provision now removed, the admins are now paying close attention for obvious reasons. The way things are going, it’s only a matter of time before the site becomes 100% pay to use and it’s a shame. If they actually gave a damn, things would have never gotten like this.

 

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