Selling unwanted presents online?
Meeting strangers can be dicey, so be on guard when making sales
The growth of online marketplaces and e-commerce platforms like Facebook Marketplace and the app OfferUp can make selling unwanted holiday gifts easier, but meeting with strangers to close transactions comes with its risks.
In November, an unidentified suspect committed three robberies involving OfferUp in the 5400 block of North Orange Blossom Trail, according to the Orlando Police Department. The victims were robbed while meeting with the suspect to complete purchases started on the app, police said.
OfferUp’s investigation team works with law enforcement to support investigations, said Natalie Angelillo, vice president of community for OfferUp, in an emailed statement.
“OfferUp takes the trust and safety of our community very seriously and we’re incredibly disap
pointed to hear that these [robberies] occurred,” Angelillo said, calling the OfferUp “the only local marketplace that provides free training to law enforcement agencies, participates in community safety initiatives and speaks alongside industry leaders about trust and safety in the peer to peer marketplace.”
Following the string of OfferUp robberies, the Orlando Police Department noted it offers an “eCommerce Exchange Zone” in its guest parking lot as a dedicated space for people to conduct e-commerce transactions. The space has 24-hour video surveillance, said Sgt. David Baker.
People using OfferUp for “recommerce” — OfferUp’s preferred term — have access to in-app safety features like TruYou, which validate users’ profiles using a photo ID; a reputation system that compiles user data and contact information; and secure chat that protects personal information, Angelillo said.
Safety tips from OfferUp’s website and company blog offer users advice on how to stay safe while buying or selling, including meeting at in public places.
OfferUp started a Community MeetUp Spot program in 2017 that designates safe public exchange spaces nationwide, Angelillo said. These places, which can be found in the OfferUp app and at an online database, are brightly lit, monitored and often located near police stations.
Designated SafeTradeSpots within the Orlando area include the Orlando Police Department’s headquarters, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Edgewood Police Department.
Another popular e-commerce platform, Facebook Marketplace, provides a list of tips for staying saf. Its tips include include meeting at a safe location, telling a friend or family member where you plan to meet and buying items with cash or secure “person-to-person payment methods” like PayPal or Venmo.
Crystal De León, of Ocoee, said when she sells items on Facebook Marketplace, she meets at public places and she always tells her husband when and where she plans to meet up with someone. De León said she recommends using safe exchange zones and paying with PayPal or cash for secure transactions.
The OfferUp robberies in Orlando have made her more hesitant to meet up with buyers and sellers, she said, but she mostly worries about other people being victimized.
“It actually makes me scared for my family, like my mom, who isn’t as savvy or street-smart,” De León said.
While she said she has not had any unsafe e-commerce interactions, a recent incident in which a potential buyer backed out of a sale after De León suggested meeting at a police station has reinforced her commitment to safety.
“If you’re buying or selling on social media, utilize it and do your research on people before you meet up with them, or bring someone with you,” she said.
Orlando Police Department headquarters offers an exchange zone for buyers and sellers to conduct e-commerce transactions.