Santa Paula Times

SPPD: Online shoppers/sellers must
be careful of scams, criminals

April 01, 2015
Santa Paula News

Craigslist can be a fun and moneysaving way to shop, but it is also becoming fertile territory for scam artists and other criminals, including those that will kill others for their possessions or money.

Such was the case with a couple from Marietta, Georgia who earlier this year vanished when they drove to meet someone who had advertised a vintage Mustang for sale on Craigslist. The couple was murdered in a crime that police believe was premeditated in order to steal the cash they were told to bring to make the purchase. A suspect is now being tried for luring the couple with the promise of selling the vintage car that did not exist.

Santa Paula Police Commander Ish Cordero said people “should always use caution when making sales or purchases online, especially when a meeting is required.”

It is now becoming more common for a suspect to offer a fake product, or offer to buy a product, in order to prompt a meeting where a robbery — or worse — would occur.

Cordero said in general online buyers should stick to “reputable” companies, “Something along the lines of eBay that has a rating system for buyers and sellers and you can pay with Pay Pal,” or through another secure method.

“I don’t think Craigslist is monitored or controlled,” although a majority of ads are legitimate.

Craigslist and law enforcement urge potential buyers and sellers to follow basic safety guidelines before meeting anyone in person.

Cordero said those dealing through Craigslist, “Must insist on a public meeting place like a café and have somebody with you … pick an establishment that has a surveillance camera or even conduct business outside the SPPD Station. We have a sidewalk out front where you can exchange goods and money.”

Be sure to bring a cell phone and let others — family or friends — know where you’re going and why.

Never agree to meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home and be especially careful when buying or selling high-value items.

Lastly, Cordero said, “Trust your instincts … that’s always important,” and if you feel any suspicion or doubt do not agree to meet, no matter how great the deal for something you want to buy or their willingness to meet the price for something you are selling.