Would You Give Your Real Name to Ensure Safety?

Happy belated New Year to everyone.

I'll start off my regular installment of Missing Person Monday with a follow-up on the case of Donna Jou.

A few months ago, I posted this on the case: When So-Called Closure is Anything But.

Case Summary

In June of 2007, nineteen-year-old San Diego State University student Donna Jou was last seen leaving her residence with a man named John Steven Burgess.  Burgess had responded to an ad that Jou had posted on Craigslist--where she was offering her services as a math tutor.   

Burgess, who was using an alias, was a registered sex offender who fled to Florida before police could talk with him.  He was later arrested there on unrelated charges and extradited back to California.  More than a year later, Burgess pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and concealing Jou's body after confessing to authorities about the case. 

Burgess claimed that Jou died of an accidentally drug overdose at his home, he panicked, and disposed of the body.  No evidence to corroborate Burgess' story has been found, and he is eligible for parole this year (2011).  Jou remains a missing person--though sadly presumed dead. 


Hoping to improve user safety on Craigslist, Donna Jou's father, Reza Jou, now advocates this:

...Amazingly, in the aftermath of Burgess' conviction, Jou found a solution to that problem in the form of a blog posting from a businessman named Karim Pirani, the president and founder of SafeList.com, a website that requires users to submit to questions to confirm who they are before gaining access to the site's core features. 

Pirani came up with the idea not because of a personal tragedy but because he saw a market disconnect with sites like craigslist.org. 

"If you see a must-have item on eBay, what do you do?" Pirani asked rhetorically. "You look up the seller's ratings, then you can buy through PayPal, which gives you a certain amount of protection. Craigslist has no PayPal, so a transaction is like Russian roulette. People are nonchalant where they should be vigiliant." 

To become a verified user of SafeList, individuals must submit themselves to a series of questions based on their personal life history that the system pulls from a comprehensive public database. They must correctly answer these questions within 240 seconds. 

In additon, failure to respond correctly will keep the person at the basic user level, and SafeList will also report any convicted felon or sexual predator that attempts to register on the website to law enforcement.
I like the concept of SafeList and applaud Mr. Jou's efforts, but have doubts about what I grasp about their methodology. 

With so many databases that would need to be tapped to accurately capture a person's criminal history, I am not convinced that using one "public database" would suffice.  Some folks that lie about their identity are quite skilled, and simply registering as a brother, cousin, or friend would seemingly be no problem for them.

Further, I am not sure how reporting a "convicted felon" trying to register on a website to authorities would be beneficial--unless it was a violation of the convict's parole.


What do you think?

Would you like to use a Craigslist-type website that verifies your identity to buy and sell things and services?


WomanHonorThyself said...

keep up the great work Slam~!HAPPY NEW YEAR my friend and hugs!:)

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
No, I don't use Craig's list. I don't even consider eBay to be that secure any more. There are plenty of people buying and selling under alias on eBay, and one never knows if one is buying contraband.

Sad truth.
Thanks for a great post. And my condolences to the Jou family, how awful for them!

Ann T.

Dawn said...

Sometimes I think I'm just being ridiculous...but then I hear things like this...and the computer Scares me!
Play it safe on here as anywhere I guess.....
This is quite the story! Awareness is probably key.

lifeshighway said...

No, I don't think this can of database can protect anyone. It is a nice thought but does not address the underlying issue of bad people lie. This goes for a lot of the "safety laws" where good citizens are restricted and the bad guys are given more power.

ladyfi said...

So sad... Hope you enjoyed your Christmas holidays!

Ally Lifewithally said...

Vigilance is the answer ~ I enjoyed reading your post very informative ~

Happy New Year ~ Ally x

terri said...

I think it's time to give up some of the convenience and ease of sites like Craig's List and go back to the old way of doing things. While I'm sure Craig's List makes it so much easier, and faster to market services or items for sale, and gets the information out to infinitely more people than traditional methods, it hasn't proven to be a safe way of completing transactions. How many stories like this do we have to hear before we realize this isn't a safe way of conducting business?

Meadowlark said...

Well, back in the "olden days" I coulda been killed meeting a real life person that I knew through someone else. The difference is the chain of knowledge could be tracked and my killer found.

Basically though, NO. I wouldn't use those sites, don't use those sites and providing my "real" identity will just be a false sense of security for stupid people. Sigh...

LisaF said...

Craig's list seems to be becoming a haven for some people with less than honorable intentions. I don't understand how anyone can advertise on the site and not have in the back of their mind that they are risking their life. In theory, the list is a great idea. In reality, it shows us the many areas where we are completely vulnerable. I don't think a *safe list*w would help. If you are hell bent on criminal behavior, a list isn't going to stand in your way.

Nikole Hahn said...

I use Craigs List for my Praise and Coffee meetings. It's how I got new people into my group. However, I never use my real email on it because of spam and viruses which are incredible on Craigs List. I never use it otherwise.

Travel Nurse Extraordinaire said...

You bringup some good points. I doubt it can hurt to try it and it certainly may work for weeding ou the dumb criminals but it may increse fees to offset the cost.

I think it comes down to simple personal safety which should be used when meeting anyone unfamiliar. No matter how far they go to check someone out you could still be taken advantage of by any person regardless of a criminal record or not.

Diane said...

Sounds like an idea, but Craigslist would probably lose business and not like that.

KittyCat said...

Did you see the one about the missing benton, missouri girl, who disappeared from the HS?

THat is near me.
I think it is supposed to be on tonight on one of those crime channels.

You should check it out.
Interesting story.

J. J. in Phila said...

That is an excellent idea!

Happy New Year to you Slambunk.

Angelia Sims Hardy said...

I got my puppy Brownie off Craigslist. I gave away some free stuff on there as well and sold my washer and dryer.

I think it's no different than anything else. Real names or not, you have to be careful, listen to instincts, and use common sense.

My mom swears having a Facebook will get you murdered. Well, I'm still here..

Great info and very thought provoking.

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

Craigslist is great but a little sketchy at times. I have friends that met and got married from meeting on Craigslist! Happy New Year Slam and Fam!

BobKat said...

Interesting post Slam! Okay, I always say that, but got me thinking.

I've used my techno and research skills to look up people that I know have criminal records - nada. I looked myself up, and I'm clean as a whistle.

Why then on rare occasions do law enforcement ask me about "marijuana charges"? Why? The (marijuana) pipe I was caught with in 1985.

The problem as I see it - "Data Mining" which is the tech term for hacking/researching/investigating people is not a standard... sure, maybe the police should have info no one else has, but if that's so, what other "company" can you trust?

Who can you trust?

No one really. And that's life.

I offer tech support services... at the home of total strangers... I often wonder who's more to be scared of? Me, the "1985 Pot Pipe Marauder", or "docile Uncle Joe", with a new computer and half a dozen bodies in his back-yard(that I'm unaware of)?

What we need are sites like yours that remind us bad things happen to good people.

Oh, and I don't do Craigslist either.

Brian Miller said...

while the concept is sound...i have the same reservations as you...easy enough to falsify...

Opus #6 said...

Women should arm themselves, especially when vigilance is required. Arms give strength to the weak. Some women are afraid of firearms, but they would benefit the most from their availability.

But even so, I don't open the door to strangers. Can't be too careful.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

To be honest, I think that you have to rely on your own wit here. I have used Craigslist so many times, quickly and easily when I need furniture or want to sell my own (mainly during a moving process). I have also purchased cell phones, antiques, etc. I love the ease with which I can do it, but I also follow rules to make sure I'm okay- I never meet the person alone, I always meet them in a common area and I always have someone else in my car with me. It's so sad and unfortunate what happened to her and I have nothing but understanding for the notion but Craigslist is supposed to be used as a community bulletin and I believe it's kinda up to you to take care of yourself when you use it.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I agree. Those who really want to cheat the system will manage to do it.

Americanwife said...

Thank you for writing such a great blog post about Donna Jou and SafeList. The SafeList.com team wishes you a wonderful 2011!

Rhiannon Nicole said...

Ugh after the Craigslist killer movie last night and all the scary stories you hear I'm not sure if I trust Craigslist or any of those sites anymore. It's so unnerving to think of whats out there and who is pretending to be someone else. Keep up the great work Slam and a Happy New Year to you and your fam in 2011!! xo

Rhiannon Nicole said...

Ugh after the Craigslist killer movie last night and all the scary stories you hear I'm not sure if I trust Craigslist or any of those sites anymore. It's so unnerving to think of whats out there and who is pretending to be someone else. Keep up the great work Slam and a Happy New Year to you and your fam in 2011!! xo

Rhiannon Nicole said...

Ugh after the Craigslist killer movie last night and all the scary stories you hear I'm not sure if I trust Craigslist or any of those sites anymore. It's so unnerving to think of whats out there and who is pretending to be someone else. Keep up the great work Slam and a Happy New Year to you and your fam in 2011!! xo

carma said...

I meant to read this the other day when we were both channeling craigslist. I'm seriously considering never using it again after this frustrating experience with so many scam emailers :-( Any changes to make the system safer are a good idea. If a person doesn't want to give their info, than so be it, they just won't be able to use the system, but it will keep the rest of us safer (hopefully)