Craigslist, eBay, and other online classifieds are a great way to move merchandise and perhaps make some extra cash. I myself have safely bought and sold numerous items online over the years. However, any time you meet with a stranger – especially when money is involved – there are risks. While these risks can’t be eliminated, there are certain steps one can take to minimize them. Far too often, the Philadelphia Police Department takes reports from victims of fraud, robbery, and sometimes- worse. These seemingly harmless exchange of goods have unfortunately become tragedies. To help minimize the risks, the Philadelphia Police Department is offering the following tips when meeting to buy or sell an item:
- Bring Someone Along: Having another person or persons with you makes you less of a target for a potential robbery. There is strength in numbers. It is also important to make sure that someone else knows where you are planning to meet at in case of an emergency.
- Meet in a Public Place: This goes for buying or selling. Do you really want to give a complete stranger your home address? Also, meeting at a seller’s home may not be the best idea, either. A public location – such as a mall or shopping center – will help ensure that you are on a more even
playing field. Also, having a lot of witnesses may help minimize the potential of becoming a victim. If at all possible, ask to meet at your nearest POLICE STATION. While the Police Department won’t broker your deal for you, we believe you’ll be much safer with officers on site. Asking to meet at a police station will eliminate most potential criminals in the first place. Also, once you agree to meet at that public place, DO NOT agree to meet “around the corner” from it. A phone call asking to change locations while enroute to your agreed upon meeting place should be a red flag.
- If It Looks To Good To Be True…: Yeah, it probably is. If someone is listing an item that sells for $1000 elsewhere but is letting it go for $150, there is an extremely good chance that you are being set up for a robbery. If you MUST investigate this potential deal, INSIST that they meet at a Police Station. You’ll be amazed at how many “sellers” will cease communication with you after you make that request.
- Only Accept Cash: While you may turn off some potential buyers, dealing with cash only will help ensure that you do not become a victim of fraud. One of the more common reports the department takes is from sellers who were paid with a bad check or money order.
The reality is the overwhelming majority of people buying and selling goods on the internet are honest people. However, it is extremely important to remain vigilant when making these types of transactions. While none of these tips are a sure-fire way to ensure that you won’t become a victim, they can greatly increase your chances of having a safe experience when buying or selling online.
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