2020 has seen a rash of horrific crimes related to people who buy and sell online.
In August of this year, Joseph and Jossline Roland — a married Colorado couple with five children, traveled to a local mall. They had responded to an online advertisement on the website LetGo and hoped to purchase a used 2017 Toyota Rav4 from a man who called himself James Worthy.
When they arrived at Southlands Mall, they met up with an 18-year-old man named Kyree Brown. He told them that he’d accidentally brought the wrong title for the car, and tried to convince the couple to follow them to his apartment. Then, he robbed the couple at gunpoint and shot both Joseph and Jossline when they attempted to drive away.
After shooting Joseph and Jossline, he took their money and fled the scene of the crime. Police found the couple unresponsive in the car, and took them to the nearest hospital, but they tragically died only five minutes apart.
After murdering the couple, Kyree Brown attempted to sell the car online again, this time using the name Jessica Harlan.
Luckily, police apprehended Kyree Brown before any more people were hurt. He has since been charged with two counts of First Degree Murder.
This story is horrifying, but it’s not the only one.
In California, an 18-year-old High School student was in critical condition after he was shot while trying to sell a necklace on OfferUp, another online classified site. Jacob McKanry met up with someone who responded to his online ad, and he was shot and robbed. Luckily, he survived.
If you’re using any type of online classified ads, like Craigslist, OfferUp, or LetGo, there are many potential dangers.
Scammers run rampant on these sites, and many offers are actually complex schemes designed to rob you of your cash. The top scams on these types of websites tend to be properties for rent and pets.
In fact, a recent report from Forbes reported that the biggest online scam of 2023 was scammers pretending to sell puppies on classified websites.
Despite the dangers of scams and running into dangerous people, classified websites are still a great resource to snag good deals and bargains. But if you want to use websites like these, it’s important to stay safe and keep your guard up.
Here are some safety tips for buying and selling online.
1. Be Careful Where And When You Meet
You should never meet someone at night or at their home. Likewise, if you’re selling something, don’t ask a seller to come to your home. Many police stations have ‘SafeZone’ trade zones, where you can arrange to meet a buyer or seller. Any criminal is going to be highly unwilling to step foot near a police station if they have any sinister intentions.
If you can’t get to a SafeZone, arrange to meet in a crowded, public place during the day. Avoid anywhere where you can’t be seen. If you meet someone in a public place and they try and convince you to follow them to another location, bail out at once.
2. Don’t Make Big Purchases On Classified Ads
If you’re buying or selling something expensive — like a car or jewelry — don’t do it on an online classified website or app. For starters, this will mean you have to travel somewhere with a large amount of cash on you, which makes you an attractive target for would-be burglars and robbers. Likewise, if you’re selling something expensive, this again will make you an enticing prospect for someone who wants to steal from you. The more value you might provide to a criminal, the higher the risk is that you will be targeted by one.
3. Background Check First
A simple reverse phone lookup from Instant Checkmate would reveal that “Jessica Harlan” was actually Kyree Brown. If you search for someone’s phone number and it belongs to a completely different person, cancel the purchase. If you get a Background Check from Instant Checkmate, you might discover criminal records that show a history of theft and/or violent crime. All of these are huge red warning flags that this person should be avoided at all costs.
4. If It’s Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is
If you’ve found a huge, state-of-the-art penthouse in New York City for $900 bucks a month, it’s almost certainly a scam. Watch out for deals that are too good to be true. You can easily research other properties in the area to see if something is priced outrageously beneath the market value. Another smart tip is to save the image, then run it through a Reverse Google Image Search. You might discover that it’s either a stock image, or it belongs to the real listing — which is much more expensive. Pet scams are also on the rise, so beware of any listings offering pets for a cheap price.
5. Use The Spelling And Grammar Police
Another red flag of a scammer is using poor spelling and grammar. Often online scams (like real estate scams and pet scams) are conducted by con artists living in different countries. You should also be careful if the post is vague on details.
6. Never Pay Before You Get The Goods
You’ve found an amazing deal on a classified app or website — but there’s a catch. The seller asks you to either put down a deposit or pay before you’ve ever met face-to-face. Never, ever, hand over any money until you have the goods in your hands. If a seller asks for you to pay by wire transfer or gift card, this is a huge sign that it’s a scam.
If you use classifieds religiously, you probably have some great deals to show for it! Finding a rare antique for a bargain, or a perfect apartment are all awesome outcomes of using classifieds. Just make sure that you use these tips and tricks to stay safe so that you can outsmart any scammers or dangerous criminals who may be trying to trick you or put you in harm’s way.