In light of this awful piece of news, I wanted to offer some advice on using Craigslist safely when looking for sexy encounters.
Basic technology and online dating safety considerations also apply to using Craigslist. Here are the guidelines J and I use. Abiding by any set of rules are honestly probably not going to keep you safe from sociopaths, but they will help you feel at ease when meeting strangers. Meeting strangers off of Tinder or Craigslist or Grindr or any other online platforms is risky, but most people are not sociopaths (and, honestly, every time you leave the house poses some sort of risk!). Even so, minimizing risk to your health and well being is a good idea.
1. Use an email address that is not connected to your legal identity. Set up your profile name as different than your legal one, and don’t use your last name. Craigslist at least now assigns a craigslist email to every user; you have to intentionally swap real email addresses with those you are corresponding with.
2. If you are sending racy photos, I recommend sending naked photos that don’t include your face. If you want to send photos with your face, you can blur out your face or use a black bar to cover your eyes. When J and I send photos, we have one album of racy photos with no faces, and one album of just our faces so that the two aren’t immediately connected.
3. Be cautious when sending videos. We have primarily shared videos with friends we already know pretty well. Once, we were chatting with someone who answered an ad of ours and “she” really wanted to see a video I had made. We ended up sending it to her through Google Drive, and then deleting it about six hours later. It’s possible the person downloaded it in that amount of time; I don’t think I would share a video again with someone I hadn’t yet met in person.
4. Think about using Google Voice as a second phone number. You can receive this number at your regular cell phone, but as long as it doesn’t become your phone number through your carrier, I don’t think it can be tracked in the same way. You can choose whatever area code you want.
5. When planning to meet potential dates off of Craigslist, meet somewhere public and preferably in an area that you are familiar with. Tell at least one person where you are going and when you think you will be home. Have your buddy text or call you at a prearranged time to check in with you. Have a safety plan in place that your buddy can enact if they can’t get in touch with you (calling the police would probably be a good move).
6. You know what they say about first impressions? I think it’s true: J and I usually know within a a millisecond whether we trust or basically like someone, or whether we don’t. Trust your gut and your instincts. Know that there are plenty of potential dates out there and don’t ignore your instincts in favor of a potentially sexy time. (This also applies to the nice person-jerk spectrum, and not just to those you think could potentially physically hurt you)
7. If you decide to go with somewhere after meeting in public, I recommend another more public place if you can, like a swingers club or hotel. Having more people increases your safety. If you decide to bring someone back to your place or if you decide to go to theirs, have separate modes of transportation and let your buddy know what’s going on. If you’re going to their place, send your buddy the address.
8. If the energy changes, your skin crawls, or your hair stands up when you get back to the place of residence, once again trust yourself. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings; your physical safety is far more important.
Stay safe, have fun!
Any other pieces of advice that you want to share?