Every day people turn to online sites like BackPage, CraigsList and eBay to buy, sell and share services and goods like furniture, jobs, cleaning services—even spouses.
Who is behind the classfieds might surprise you, said Katonah resident and NBC television producer, Daniel Slepian.
"These websites have changed the whole notion of what a classfied is—they are essentially new versions of the old print classifieds that used to be in fine print in the back of a newspaper. And they are easily accessible to anyone—socially savvy teens included," said Slepian.
Slepain spent almost a year answering online classified ads and uncovering some scary—and strange—scenarios.
The episode shows Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen (with hidden cameras rolling) meeting someone who suggests he is a hit man, a student selling a kidney in order to pay for college, and a drug dealer who claims to be selling a list of his clients.
The show, called "Wild, Wild Web," will give a glimpse into a startling and dynamic digital world, said Slepian. It also explores how online classified ads have become a platform for whistleblowers to warn the public about potential rip-offs.
Slepian described how he answered an ad that turned out to be placed by a whistleblower. The ad described counterfeit goods at a Westchester Mall kiosk, one of several owned by the same individual. Slepian visited and purchased a $79 Mophie—a power battery pack available at the nearby Apple store for $20 more. After confirming it was a knock-off, low-quality product, they confronted the owner.
"Within a day, the kiosk closed," he said.
Another post led Hansen to a kitchen contractor who allegedly scammed two couples out of thousands of dollars. Hansen confronts that contractor face to face with “Dateline” cameras capturing it all. In a public park, Hansen meets a man who claims he is willing to do people harm for money and acts interested in hiring him. Their disturbing and candid conversation proves just how intense the online world has become.
Slepian said the show is a fascinating look at how there is more than meets the eye in the world of online classifieds.
"It's important for parents—and for anyone—to know what might be behind the classfieds," he said.
For more on tonight's show, click on the attached preview.