Don’t automatically trust
Facebook and similar social media sites are ideal for virtual friendships, but just because you “know” someone online doesn’t mean they are trustworthy, cautions Robert Siciliano, CEO of in Boston. Be especially cautious when it comes to transactions that involve computers, mobile telephones, jewelry, and other items that can be easily resold. Don’t drop your guard simply because you’re working with an acquaintance, he says.
Guard personal details
Some sellers or buyers will ask about your working hours of if you have a spouse or another person who can help with moving a heavy object. Those questions are often ploys to determine vulnerability. Questions that raise a red flag include: Are you home alone? Are you a single mom? Will you allow me to come into your house and take the item? “[Criminals] want to understand your habits and the layout of your home so they can return and break in,” says international safety expert Tom Patire ofWoodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Put home security systems in place and don’t volunteer information that could help a burglar.
Practice security through obscurity
Don’t offer your full name and contact information. Meet in a public place such as a police station, fast food restaurant, or at a shopping mall. Of course, you should never give out account or other personal information, either. “When you obscure where you live, you’re putting up a barrier between the transaction and your personal life,” Siciliano says. “Some people’s homes have been invaded and that can happen to you, too.” Cancel the meeting if you have any doubts or suspicious feelings.
Gather identification details pre-meeting
It’s important to gather information about the other person—including a physical description—before the transaction. Search social media for details. And put doubt in the other person’s mind about who will be at the meeting. “A little white lie like, ‘My brother is a cop and will be here so don’t be nervous if you see a police car in the driveway,’ will make the person with whom you’re dealing think twice about harming you,” said Patire. You can even talk on the phone (or pretend to do so) when the person arrives and say something like, “See you in 10 minutes. You’ll meet [say name] who is here to buy my item.”
Enlist a buddy
Have a spouse, friend, or neighbor accompany you to the meeting. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or clothing. Do wear sneakers so you can run if needed, said Siciliano. Also, let others know your plans for the transaction. Communication is key.
Notify the police if the transaction is at your home
It may be impossible to take a dining room set or large piece of furniture to a neutral location for the transaction. But move the furniture, appliance, or other item outside. Discreetly jot down the license plate number of the car in which the person arrives. You could alert the local police of the upcoming meeting and request they drive by your house, said Patire. “That’s the biggest thing I tell all my clients,” he said. “The police are there to protect and serve. Every phone call to them is recorded. If you ask them to drive by your house at a certain time, they will.”
Don’t automatically reject this type of selling
Yes, there can be risks to buying and selling on Facebook and similar online exchanges. Use diligence, though, and you can remain safe while making beneficial transactions, said Patire. “I don’t want people to think selling this way isn’t a good idea,” said Patire. “Every once in a while, you will find a person with wrong intent. Limit what you say, have a good safety system in place, and you can spotlight them and remain safe.”
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