The Better Business Bureau issued a warning Tuesday, alerting consumers to use caution in arranging meetings as part of online sales.
A suburban man was killed during a robbery as he attempted to complete the sale of his gaming system through the Letgo.com app, and the BBB said there have also been several recent robberies reported in the area from people who have met with someone pretending to be a buyer online.
More than two billion people will make some sort of mobile transaction over their phone or tablet by the end of the year, up from 1.6 billion in 2016, the BBB said.
With that in mind, the consumer advocacy nonprofit warns that both buyers and sellers should prioritize their safety when using sites and mobile apps like Letgo.com, Offerup.com, Facebook marketplace, and Craigslist.
“This is a disturbing trend consumers need to know about because people are being put in harm's way,” Chicago and Northern Illinois BBB president and CEO Steve Bernas said in a statement. “There are easy steps to stay safe we hope people consider in this era of let the buyer and seller beware."
The Chicago Police Department has declared itself a “safe zone” for online transactions, and welcomes consumers to arrange face-to-face meetings in the parking lot or lobby of any CPD location.
The BBB shared tips to ensure safety in online purchases:
- Never give out personal information like your address or phone number
- Always choose a public space that is well lit and monitored to complete transactions in person
- Always bring your cell phone with you
- Always bring someone else to accompany you - or make sure you tell someone exactly where you're going
- In all transactions, never wire money, and be careful as personal or certified checks can be fake
In the wake of the Chicago-area fatal shooting late last month, Letgo.com also asked that users beware of “unusual requests,” unrealistically low prices, or photos that obviously haven’t been taken by the seller, saying “it if seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
The site also recommends that anyone feeling unsure about another user’s identity, it may be helpful to speak on the phone or look them up online before arranging a meeting.