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Anyone been arrested for using bots on craigslist?

Discussion in 'Black Hat SEO' started by haterd, Nov 15, 2012.

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  1. haterd

    haterd Newbie

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    So, I made a bot that scraped info from craigslist' site and put it up as an educational piece. Gave away the source code and everything at no charge. Two months later my boss at work started receiving calls from the CL investigation team, he ignored them. Then corporate bosses started getting phone calls too. At that point I was strongly "advised" to take it down.

    I see a lot of people talking about CL and can't help but tell people be careful. I thought I would share my experience. Not to scare people away, but to remind people that anonymity is something that you should be careful with.

    Not long after I took down the bot, the cyber crimes division in my city asked me (through my boss) to come in for a few questions. I was read my rights, offered a lawyer, the whole nine. I was not arrested though. Seems a post I put on here about using bot mailers, was linked to another user that had been scamming people on CL. I was "of interest to the investigation" that had been brought to their attention by the CL investigation team. "Say again, sir?", I said. Craigslist private investigators brought this to cyber crimes division's attention, and I was subsequently questioned. Yes, CL has that kind of pull!

    I am an average guy, with an average job, probably a lot like you. Family, house, dog, 2 cars. Day job puts me in the 40-80K/yr category. But, like all humans, more money never hurts, so I started learning bots to automate marketing efforts.

    Now, image your efforts and exploration into internet marketing landed you with the cops and a 3 hour long questioning. The police had every post I ever put on BHW, about 60 or so and asked me to explain about half of them. After the second break I told them the whole thing was bull and that if I wasn't under arrest, I was leaving and if they were to arrest me I would seek a lawyer. In either case I wasn't answering any more questions. They told me I was free to go and I never heard from them again (yet). Guess they figured out I wasn't doing anything illegal.

    So, because I put that first bot on my own website and irritated craigslist. That was the piece that linked the bot to my forum name. I don't know if CL found the bot on my site first, or found the post on here. Either way, the two pieces together gave them who I was. A simple who-is domain search gave them my name and address. With that, they could get everything they wanted from a quick Google search. I have a very public life on the web. They also had a list of every domain I ever purchased.

    So, what's my advice? If you are going after CL type marketing, tread carefully. CL is very sensitive to people automating their site. It violates their TOS to use a bot. And while it's not criminal to violate TOS, they can tie you up in court and make your life miserable. They would have a hard time proving damages, but it would be a serious pain none the less.

    If you are emailing SPAM to the email addresses that are on almost every page of craigslist, that is absolutely illegal (CAN-SPAM Act) and can land you in prison. Craigslist will provide IP addresses, headers, and anything else they can to the authorities. And the authorities listen. Trust me!

    Where I'm at now...

    My bots are coming. I will be making free bots and posting them on anonymous file sharing sites out of the reach of take-down notices. Even if they do go down, I'll make sure they get replaced.

    Hopefully, others will post their stories here as well. Tips and advice when dealing with CL would be great too.

    Be smart about it.

    I changed around several of the facts you just read so as not to be identified. I would suggest you do the same.
     
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  2. Dagreyon

    Dagreyon Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Good read. Glad you got out without any legal or criminal issues.
     
  3. Berkeli

    Berkeli Regular Member

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    wow.. what a story.. never been contacted by the authorities so far about stuff of this kind, and I hope never will be. thanks for the Advice! I do use CL quite a lot but not for spamming ) for posting ads lol
     
  4. hitman247

    hitman247 Executive VIP Premium Member

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    Thanks for sharing. In the future I would recommend ALWAYS having an attorney when speaking to the police about anything. It does not matter whether it is for a traffic citation or something as serious as what you went through.
    Code:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc
     
  5. redrubies

    redrubies Supreme Member

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    Do you ever answer pm's from people with a few posts? I had made a post about greendot cards once and all these people came out of the woodwork pm'ing me asking how to get new identities, how to get social security numbers, etc. I either replied and said I didn't know or didn't answer them at all. My post wasn't even about that and the first thing that came to mind was that this was a pathetic attempt to catch me in something. It angered me for two reasons. First, I was not doing anything wrong, and second, the law needs to go after more important things like corporate fraud, bank fraud, or the sex slave trade of minors. I am sorry this happened to you. Don't they have anything better to do than bother someone who makes bots?
     
  6. haterd

    haterd Newbie

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    It was a stressful week. I went straight home after the questioning, called work to take a sick day, I was fearing a warrant to search my house. I destroyed about 200 burned DVD's. Erased 5 old hard drives, I knew they had mp3 downloads I couldn't prove I owned. Drove 20 minutes across town and threw my chipped xbox which had a 250GB drive with about 50 games backed up on it, off a bridge. Think of all the little things on your computer you could get nailed for. 20/20 did a special on a guy that was convicted of child porn, because hackers were remotely using his computer to view the pics. The guy didn't even know they were there. I had 4 computers in the house at the time and did low level formats on all of them the same day. My wife jokes about it now, she said it was probably similar to what was going on at Enron when their pants got pulled down. I laugh now, but that $h!t is no fun!
     
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  7. haterd

    haterd Newbie

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    I spoke with a lawyer the next day, he gave the same advice. Never talk to the cops without an attorney. I was just in the mind set that I didn't do anything wrong and thought I was safe. I'm now a paranoid conspiracy theory believer!
     
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  8. s0ap

    s0ap Executive VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    This is a friendly reminder that Craigslist discussion is not allowed on the forum for a number of reasons, some of which you have discovered first-hand.
     
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