Criminals are using online marketplaces to target victims for robbery. Since October, the Columbia Police Department has taken nearly one larceny report a month that has stemmed from individuals arranging online to meet in person to complete a transaction. The sales are typically involving electronics.
The suspect(s) are using Facebook marketplaces or swap groups to inquire about the items. After a price is agreed on, the parties agree to meet at a location to complete the transaction. Once the suspect(s) has the item in his hands he flees the area with the item without paying the victim.
Currently known reported incidents include:
- 10/21/16 at approximately 8:02 p.m. in the 1500 block of Bodie Drive,
- 12/4/16 at approximately 11:55 p.m. in the 1000 block of Claudell Lane,
- 2/3/17 at approximately 8:17 p.m. in the 1900 block of Worley Street
Detectives with the Criminal Investigations Division are still investigating a fourth incident, originally reported as an assault with a gun on 1/23/17 at approximately 5:18 p.m. in the 1500 block of Riva Ridge Court. The robbery suspect has not been arrested at this time.
Citizens are continually encouraged to use CPD's Online Exchange Zone as means for making online transactions. Located at Sixth Street and Walnut Street, the lobby provides a secure environment with video surveillance and front desk personnel. The Online Exchange Zone is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Weapons and/or weapon sales are not allowed.
Be vigilant and trust your instincts. If something does not seem right, then it probably isn't. As a citizen selling an item, if you're met with hesitancy by the buyer upon requesting to meet in the Online Exchange Zone, that may be good indication the buyer's intentions are not genuine. Although discouraged, if you are not able to complete your transaction in the Online Exchange Zone, please remember the following:
- Arrange to meet in a well-lit, public place.
- Arrange to meet during the day.
- Don't go alone. If this is not an option, tell someone where you're going and how long it should take.
- Take your cell phone with you.
- Do not meet in a secluded area or an area unknown to you.
- Do not invite strangers into your home, and do not go to theirs.
- Be cautious when buying/selling high value items.
- Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
2016-011630, 2016-013324, 2017-000757, & 2017-001218