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Beyond Local: Watch for These Red Flags When Buying on Online Buy-Sell Platforms

Platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist have become a hotbed of scams, with some resulting in robberies.

In the digital age, more and more consumers are turning to the internet to buy and sell items.

Private seller platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist have become increasingly popular, but digital marketplaces have also become a hotbed of scams and fraud, including rental scams.

In Vancouver, a recent series of face-to-face meetings between private sellers resulted in violent robberiesprompting the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to warn residents to exercise caution when conducting buy/sell meetings on the internet.

How to Stay Safe When Meeting Someone in an Online Marketplace

Following the announcement of the flights, VPD installed a Safe swap location at the front of their head office located at 2120 Cambie Street. Here, people can meet for transactions in person under the supervision of the Vancouver police.

“If buyers/sellers cannot meet here, we suggest bringing a friend and meeting in a public place where they will be in plain sight (mall, cafe, etc.),” the VPD writes. Cst. Jason Doucette in an email to Vancouver is awesome. “We don’t suggest prepaying for items and remind people to remember if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Doucette also notes that the most important advice for those considering meeting in person is to follow your instincts. He encourages people who feel their safety is at risk to go to a safe place when calling 911.

If someone is scammed or is the victim of a crime, they should file a complaint with their local police.

Red flags when buying online from a private seller

Even before arranging an in-person transaction, there are several ways to tell if an online ad is a scam.

Several red flags, listed by BC Consumer Protectionare:

  • Many spelling and grammatical errors
  • Generic product photos rather than real photos
  • Being asked to transfer payment (a common indication of a scam)
  • Pressure to make a quick decision
  • A last minute change of plan
  • An offer that seems too good to be true

The agency also recommends several tips for staying safe when pursuing a transaction:

  • Do not disclose personal or financial information
  • Don’t pay until you see the product (including e-transfer)
  • Ask questions about the product
  • Research the seller and learn their background through third-party selling websites (like Craigslist)
  • Inspect and test the item before purchasing
  • Go to a public place and bring a friend
  • Trust your instincts



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