TIP: He’s Probably Not Going to Show Your Snake to His Girlfriend

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Here's a nice item from the Crime Blotter in the Columbia, SC, Free Times (thanks, Dedman):

Craigslist Bandit: Authorities are looking for a man who has been stealing items from people when he meets up with them via Craigslist. First example: He met someone about purchasing a phone. While examining the phone, he asked the seller if he could let his girlfriend see it; once he had permission, he walked off and never returned. The suspect has since used a similar method to steal another phone, a PlayStation 4 and even a snake.

The reporter suggests that eBay may be a better way to go than Craigslist, but I think the problem here is not so much Craigslist but rather a seller's decision to give something valuable and portable to a complete stranger and then watch as he walks out of sight. This is not to condone the diabolically clever scheme dreamed up by this wily rogue (I will ask if my girlfriend can see the item … and then simply walk away!), I'm just saying it was possible for the sellers to protect themselves here.

Especially the snake seller. "Well, I'm sold, but I have to check with my girlfriend. You know how it is. Oh, no, she likes snakes a lot, I just need to make sure she likes this one. Uh, the color, I guess. She's just real particular about snakes, you know? Okay, so, she's just over there in my van around the corner. No, uh, she couldn't come over here to see it because she's disabled and all. Also shy. I dunno, what can I tell you? I just have a really shy disabled girlfriend who likes snakes that are a certain color. So, I'll be, like, right back."

This kind of story has two equally inexplicable elements:

  1. Somebody thought this plan would work.
  2. It did.

The previous example that comes to mind, or at least to my mind, is the similarly clever scheme employed by the "Salamander Man," a master thief who plagued the Netherlands until his capture in early 2006. His modus operandi went like this:

  1. He would knock on someone's front door, say he had lost his salamander and ask if he could come in and look for it.
  2. They would let him.
  3. Nope, that's it.

To be fair, he sometimes claimed to be looking for a lost hamster or iguana rather than a salamander, so it's not like he used exactly the same plan every time. That might explain why it worked approximately 60 times before police managed to bring this spree to an end.

Then there's also what I would call the "See Ya!" variant. This employs a similarly clever plan to gain access to the valuable item, but the final step involves running instead of walking. See "It's the Old Wealthy-Fisherman-Trying-on-a-Rolex Scam Again" (Jan. 31, 2013). Please be on guard against this as well.