Safe Zones: How to protect yourself with online transactions

Updated: Nov. 7, 2016 at 1:09 PM CST
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PINE BELT (WDAM) - It seems like a good way to make a quick buck.

There is something a person doesn't need anymore, so they sell it online and within minutes could have several potential buyers. However, the question of safety remain.

How does someone know if the person they are meeting for the exchange won't hurt them? The short answer is, there is no way to know. 
That is why law enforcement agencies across the country are setting up safe zones.

According to the Advanced Interactive Media Group, an industry watchdog and analyst, more than 100 murders have been connected to Craigslist, a website of classified ads.

"You always want to be careful when you are conducting that type of business," said Captain Tommy Cox with the Laurel Police Department. "We have all read stories in the national news like everyone else does."

In Boston, Philip Markoff, nicknamed The Craigslist Killer, was accused of robbing three women, and killing one of them. According to prosecutors, the 24-year-old medical student would solicit women from ads in the Craigslist personals' section. He was charged with the crimes but committed suicide in prison before standing trial.

In Colorado, a pregnant mother was stabbed when she responded to an ad for baby clothes. When she arrived at the home, a woman attacked her, cut out her baby and left her for dead.

In Georgia, a couple was killed after answering a Craigslist ad for a vintage car.

Police say the murderer told them he had one for sale, then robbed and killed them when they showed up to buy it.

These types of crimes aren't new, but the way the crimes are carried out is new, which is why authorities are stepping in.

Instead of meeting a stranger at a home, buyers and sellers can make exchanges in designated safe zones.

"Go to a place that is well lit go to a place that's got a camera where you know is safe," said Wayne County Sheriff Jody Ashley." If you are going to meet someone you met on Craigslist or whatever you want to go to a safe place to make sure it is legit."

That safe place is the police or the sheriff's department.

"It's very well-lit there, and police officers are in and out at all times during the day," said Cox. "It is covered by camera so if you were looking for a place to feel a little bit safer the front lot or lobby of the police department is a good choice."

Sheriff Ashley agreed.

"This place is for the public anyway," Ashley said. "We are here to serve and protect."

Authorities also stressed that the best defense is common sense. If an online purchase seems too good to be true then it probably is.

Craigslist also has a page dedicated solely to personal safety. The page offers tips to make sure your transactions are safe.

Other additional tips include:

  • When meeting someone insist on meeting in public.
  • Do not meet in a secluded place, go to their home or invite them to your home.
  • Be especially careful buying or selling high value items.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and what you’re doing.

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