With prices sky high on pretty much everything these days, we’re all looking to save money wherever we can and more buyers are turning to online marketplaces for bargains. While peer-to-peer marketplaces like OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace can be great for finding deals, authorities are warning they’re also home to scammers. And police departments across the country are investigating robberies and fraud related to these kinds of online purchases.
Commander Rodney Hill of the Chicago Police Department says their force is investigating dozens of robberies over the last five months where suspects have allegedly used online listings to entice victims. “The offenders will contact them via cell phone and tell them to go to another location,” he explains. “When they go to that area, multiple offenders will show up, display guns and take not only the money they have in their pockets, but sometimes vehicles, watches and wallets.”
The same kind of crimes are happening in other places as well and experts say the crooks are most likely to target high-end items, like designer bags, scooters, iPads and watches.
- Hill says one way to stay safe while making an online purchase is to use a designated “safe exchange” location, which can be in police stations in some cities.
- Meeting up during the day in a public place can also add protection
- Using a credit card or PayPal is also better because they offer fraud protection services.
- And Hill recommends using common sense as well, reminding us, “Nine times out of ten, if you see a deal too good to be true, it is.”
Authorities also warn users to be on the lookout for scammers, who create fake accounts or listings to try to steal money. Common red flags include:
- The seller refuses to meet in person or let you see the item before buying.
- The seller is selling the same item in multiple states.
- The seller wants gift cards instead of cash for payment.
- The item is being offered for a price that’s much lower than market value.