Stay Safe While Buying and Selling Online

These days, it is commonplace to check a variety of popular online platforms when you want to buy or sell an item. The convenience and affordability of it is hard to pass up. Plus, it prevents items that are not being used from being thrown in the landfill, making it an eco-friendly option.

But with this convenience, comes some risk. In most cases, you are meeting a stranger. This person could portray themselves as whatever they want online. If you are considering selling or buying something on the Internet, there are some steps you should take to make sure that you stay safe.

Tell your friends and family

If you are selling something online and a potential buyer is meeting you to check out the item, be sure to tell a friend or family member. Let them know the name of the person you are meeting as well as any contact information you may have. Inform your trusted friend of when the person is coming to your home and on which app you made the initial contact. By sharing this information beforehand, your loved ones can check in with you to ensure things went smoothly. They can also communicate the information to law enforcement in the event that a criminal situation has occurred.

Meet in a public place if possible. 

Allowing someone into your home can put you in a vulnerable state. Similarly, going to a stranger's home could put you in an unsafe situation. Always try to meet in a public space during business hours. You want to be sure there are many people around so, if the other person has bad intentions, there are plenty of witnesses on the scene. A bad actor may be less likely to perpetrate a theft or attack if there is a good chance they won’t get away with it. 

If you must meet in the evening, bring a friend or family member with you. Choose a location that is brightly lit and open so that you are as visible as possible. Ideally, you would choose a location that is manned by security guards.

Be mindful of what information you share. 

No matter how friendly a person may seem online, you never know who you are dealing with on the internet. Never share personal information with the other party. This might include bank account information, passwords or even your social security number. 

Avoid giving out your personal phone number. Instead, communicate through the app that you're using or through the anonymous email exchange on the platform. If you know the full name of the individual, do a little research beforehand by checking out their social media profiles and doing a quick Google search. If you see something that makes you uneasy, consider cancelling the transaction. 

Find a community meet-up spot. 

Many communities across the nation have designated places where online transactions can take place safely. Commonly called meet-up spots, they also go by the names of safe trade spots and internet purchase exchanges. These are designated areas that are monitored by video cameras and are well-lit. 

Sometimes they are found in police station parking lots or other public spaces that are busy and have high levels of foot traffic. Do a Google search with the name of your city and the term “community meet up spot” and you should be able to find some options in your area. If you do not have these locations in your city, consider meeting at a police station, fire department or other place where a bad actor would be less inclined to perpetrate a crime.

Take caution when exchanging money. 

If you do decide to buy or sell an item, be vigilant when it comes to exchanging money. If it is a cash transaction, only bring the amount of cash needed to buy the product and nothing more. Someone with bad intentions may be more motivated to rob you if they see a wad of cash in your pocket. If possible, use an app such as Venmo or PayPal to exchange the money securely and immediately.

Finally, use common sense and follow your gut. If something feels off, trust the feeling and cancel the transaction. It is always better to be safe than sorry. By following the tips above and your gut, you can help ensure your buying and selling online is safe and secure.

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