Beware, The Nasty Secret Of The Craigslist Free Section.
If you love Craigslist, and use the free section to either post products or get great deals, you really need to read this. Because there’s a dirty secret to Craigslist that most people don’t know about it, and the free section gets hit with it most.
As with all services or products used en masse, adaptations arise to evolve the idea. With eBay, it was bid sniping (which is legitimate in my book). With free software trials, product key generators hit the market, turning free trial software into the full-blown product. And now, with Craigslist, there’s something called Auto Flagging Software, and it gives the people who use it a very sly advantage.
Now, it turns out that Auto Flagging Software originally had a good use. The idea was to use it to blast SPAM and ads for sexual services, clearing out the trash from Craigslist and keeping customers safe from bad deals and illicit offers.
But other people saw a use for this software, and it is being used by two distinct sets of Craigslist users.
First, anyone who has competitors on Craigslist (this can be people offering similar services or selling similar products) are using Auto Flagging Software programs to flag the competition, thus giving themselves more of a chance of getting business.
Second are the users who want a particular product and don’t want anyone else to have it. This most often manifests in the free section, where great deals are be had and kind people will often just give away something with inherent value to a needy person.
When the sly Craigslister with Auto Flagging Software spies a real bargain, they pounce. The software does two jobs; it will send an email to the Craigslist poster requesting the item; then, it sends flagging signals to Craigslist about that post using multiple IP addresses. This will automatically trigger the ad to be pulled from the site. And voila, the underhanded Craigslister has eliminated anyone else from responding by pulling the ad, giving him or her the best chance of getting your deal. These pieces of software are most often used by people looking to make a profit be reselling cheap or free items.
I did a little digging round and found several instances of the software (I won’t be posting any links here, for obvious reasons). I also found people requesting custom-built versions of the software for their own nefarious purposes.
So if you do frequent Craigslist, especially as someone who regularly gives products away in the free section, please monitor your post and don’t just give the product away to the first person who responds. It could be that Auto Flagging Software was involved and someone who genuinely needed the product was shut out be someone else just looking to make a quick profit from your generosity.