BUFFALO, CHEEKTOWAGA & CITY OF TONAWANDA — Buffalo Police are warning people who use websites and apps to buy/sell items to only make the transactions in "highly public places such as coffee shops."
The warning comes after two people were arrested for answering a "Letgo" ad for an iPhone X in Buffalo on October 20, 2019.
Police say the defendants met the seller in the 100 block of Bird Avenue and stole both the phone and the cash after acting like the transaction was taking place.
Robert Humphrey, 20, and Shashranetta Johnson, 40, both of Buffalo, were charged with Grand Larceny, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, and Resisting Arrest.
Humphrey was also arrested and charged for a robbery that occured on September 22, 2019. Police said Humphrey and a juvenile pulled a gun and stole items from a person who was trying to sell merchandise from his vehicle.
"Yes, we are seeing an influx of people getting robbed when they are doing these kinds of transactions from online," said Officer Jennifer Szymborski, from the Cheektowaga Police Department.
Officer Szymborski warns you should never go to an unknown residence, always take someone with you, and make sure you inspect what you are buying first. "In some of these robberies, that we are seeing, they are getting an empty box and taking off with the money," added Szymborski.
If you are robbed, ripped off, or taken advantage of, it is important to call police and file a report so law enforcement can track problems.
Many local police departments allow people to make transactions for online items on their premises.
CHEEKTOWAGA POLICE HEADQUARTERS, 3223 UNION ROAD is a designated "SAFE TRADE STATION." Anyone can use the lobby or parking lot to conduct their online purchase or sale knowing that it will be watched by police cameras.
BATAVIA CITY POLICE and the LIVINGSTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE are also designated "SAFE TRADE STATIONS."
CITY OF TONAWANDA EXCHANGE ZONE, 200 NIAGARA STREET has two parking spots labeled as "Exchange Zones." These are lighted and monitored by police cameras 24/7. The Exchange Zones are available for anyone to use, said Mayor Rick Davis, and can serve as a secure place to make child transfers in custody situations. The zones are on the police-side of Tonawanda City Hall.
WARNING SIGNS TO WATCH FOR:
Noelle Carter, president & CEO for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, said there are several things to keep in mind when using sites like Craigslist, Letgo, or Facebook Marketplace:
- Double check ads to make sure the seller is not using a "stock" photo. Google search the image to see if it shows up in other places on the internet.
- Make sure there is an accurate description.
- Don't go to any unknown address - especially at night.
- Don't be pressured into making a quick sale.
- Take someone with you.
- Inspect the item before you pay.
- Only use cash.
- Never use a personal check or credit card because thieves can steal your identity using information from the check or card.
- Don't share personal information like your home address or social security number.