Sell­ing un­wanted presents on­line?

Meet­ing strangers can be dicey, so be on guard when mak­ing sales

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Katie Rice

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

Orlando Po­lice De­part­ment head­quar­ters of­fers an ex­change zone for buy­ers and sellers to con­duct e-com­merce trans­ac­tions.

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