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HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) – This holiday season criminals are looking to steal the items you’re selling online. It can happen in a matter of seconds when you meet for the exchange.  

“There are people sometimes that do take advantage of situations,” said High Point Police Captain Patrick O’Toole. “They’re opportunistic, and they’re looking for a quick or easy snatch and score.” 

People are selling smartphones, gaming systems, furniture and more online. It means more opportunities for criminals to strike. 

“You don’t really know who you’re buying from or who you’re selling to,” said Earnest James, who sells items on Facebook Marketplace.

It’s a lesson James learned the hard way when he started selling items online 10 years ago. One sale left him out $150 dollars. 

“They sent me a screenshot of the PayPal, and I never received the money, and once I already shipped the product I found out later they never had a PayPal account,” James said. “The money never transferred.” 

Whether online or in-person, there are a few ways to protect yourself. 

Do not go to someone’s home or have them come to yours. 

“It’s important to do it in a public venue where there may be cameras that are recording things getting information,” O’Toole said. “It shows us maybe in your mind you are making a legal purchase and that you have this documentation to back that up.”

There are two safe internet purchase exchange spots in front of the High Point Police Station on Westchester Drive. There are similar safe spots at police department across the Piedmont Triad. 

“The more witnesses there are, the less likelihood there is of that exchange having problems,” O’Toole said. “If you meet someone on a street at a block number or at a house you don’t if that person actually lives there or it’s a setup.”

Research the person you’re meeting including their online profile or reviews.

When the time comes to meet, make sure it’s in a public place during the day. Bring a family member or friend with you. Have whoever is accompanying you video record the exchange on your cell phone for safety. 

If you’re buying a product don’t forget to check the item before you hand over the cash. Also, write down the product’s serial number. 

Keep a note on who you met and details of the sale. O’Toole said it will protect you in the long run. 

“By doing some of that documentation it does help, you have a bill of sale, you see their identification, they see yours, you make this exchange, print off a copy of the bill of sale as your receipt,” he said.
Before you leave, James told FOX8 there’s one more thing so you don’t wind up on the wrong side of the deal.

“You want to make sure you have the money in hand,” he said. “A lot of times cash works.” 

Always remember to call 911 if you don’t feel safe or the sale goes wrong.