Like so many things of the internet, Craigslist started out as a site dedicated to helping people find what they need. But there are bad people out there who want to mess good things up for the rest of us. While you can find a great deal on a used tent, you have to use some common sense when meeting to exchange a purchased item for money. This is where things can go wrong. Sometimes when people meet to exchange stuff someone has bad intentions and ends up robbing the party with the money or much worse.
In December of 2016 an Arlington, TX woman was trying to raise money for Christmas by selling some jewelry online, she was tracked down and murdered by her potential buyers. This woman had done many things right. She wanted to meet in a public place, a Starbucks inside a Target store. And she didn’t go alone, she brought her husband. When she thought her potential buyers didn’t show, she left with her husband. Little did the couple know, that’s exactly what the bad guys wanted.
Two men followed the couple home to their apartment. When the husband left after dropping her off, the bad guys confronted her. They took the jewelry that they knew she had on her and shot her. This woman and her family had done so many things right, I can’t fault them for not thinking they’d be followed. This was a tragic situation and the suspects have been caught.
Before you buy and sell online, consider these easy tips from The Secure Dad to protect yourself when you meet for an internet purchase exchange.
Image source: Herald Guide
Don’t Sell Online
I know this may sound obvious, but there are a few safer alternatives for selling your personal items that posting something online. My first suggestion is to tell your friends what you’re selling so they can ask around for you. If that doesn’t work, then head to a pawn shop and sell it there. Lastly you can set up a booth at a flea market or community yard sale. Consider these options first, before you post online. If you feel that you must sell something online, then be careful of how you do it.
Protect Your Identity
Craigslist is pretty good about helping you stay safe when setting up your posting and communicating with potential buyers. Remember Craigslist isn’t the bad guy here, it’s the users who can be bad guys. By submitting an email address and phone number to Craigslist they set up an anonymous system that allows you to post and chat with people while keeping your personal information safe. With that said you should never give out your phone number, address or ‘friend’ a stranger on social media while trying to make an exchange.
Use a Safe Zone
Internet purchase exchange zones are popping up all over the country. These zones are designated places where an internet purchase can take place in public and on camera. Mostly these zones are at law enforcement buildings and are free to use. If someone refuses to meet at a safe zone, then stop communicating with them. If they won’t agree to meet safely, then you don’t need to have anything to do with them. Also, do not go to an exchange alone even if it is at a safe zone.
Understand what a safe zone truly is. Most likely a safe zone is a few parking spaces at a law enforcement building that is covered by one or more cameras. Do not assume that these cameras are being monitored live by an officer. Most safe zone cameras are only used if something goes wrong to find evidence of the crime after the fact. If you meet after hours, or the weekend, assume that you’re are on your own with a camera watching only for the purpose of evidence.
Do not agree to meet at the zone and follow someone to another location. Once you arrive at the safe zone, stay there until you want to leave. Don’t be fooled by someone who forgot the cash at home and wants you to follow them there. That is a terrible idea. If necessary arrange another time to meet them at a safe zone. If they refuse, even if they don’t seem threatening, get in your car and leave.
Also don’t assume that the person you see is the only one around. For example a young, petite woman meets you to buy an Xbox. She asks you to follow her home to get purse which she says is on the counter in the kitchen. Totally believable, right? But you don’t know who is waiting for you at her home. It might be her boyfriend who’s waiting and willing to harm you over an Xbox. Stay at the safe zone.
Most likely a safe zone is a few parking spaces at a law enforcement building that is covered by one or more cameras. Do not assume that these cameras are being monitored live by an officer.
When you leave the safe zone, don’t go home. Remember the lady from Arlington? Her killers planned to get her after she left. So whether or not you met with someone, don’t go home directly after a meeting. Go to a large place with lots of people like a grocery store and do your shopping. The longer your task the better as the potential robbers will get frustrated the longer you take. This will increase the chances they’ll give up and move on.
If you received money during an exchange take it right to the bank. Leave the safe zone and go right to the drive through teller window. Deposit the money to keep it safe and to show anyone following you that you no longer have the cash. If it’s a weekend or you don’t want to deposit the money, go to the ATM. Make a transaction and then go to another public place. By stopping at the ATM it may look like you deposited the money letting anyone following you know that you are no longer in possession of the cash.
If you did meet with someone and make an exchange take note of the cars in the area. You’ll want to remember them incase you are followed. If the thieves you deal with are a team, one will meet you in one car. The other will follow you in another. The task of noting the cars should be relegated to the person you bring with you for the exchange. You’ll need to focus on the physical exchange, let your passenger make note of the surroundings while watching your back.
Don’t know how to find a internet purchase exchange zone? You can search a massive database called Safe Deal Zone. This site lets you search by zip code for safe exchange places up to 200 miles around you. When I searched my area I found a good many. I did know of a few that were not on their list, but overall this is a good place to start.
Be safe when making exchanges with strangers. If you can avoid the process altogether, then do so by selling to a pawn shop or friend. Please share this article with your friends and family. For more on family safety, home security and the enjoyment of fatherhood, stay up to date with The Secure Dad Newsletter.