Be Careful: Facebook Marketplace Being Used To Set Up Armed Robberies Across America

Be Careful: Facebook Marketplace Being Used To Set Up Armed Robberies Across America

armed robberies

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A billion people worldwide use Facebook Marketplace to buy and sell items and the company has told investors that this is one of its most promising new sources of revenue. That growth has been built partly on Facebook’s assurances that the platform is safe, ProPublica reported. While most commerce on Marketplace is legitimate, safeguards fail to protect buyers and sellers from scam listings, fake accounts and violent crime, according to a ProPublica investigation.

Facebook Marketplace is being used to set up armed robberies across the U.S. that have cost some people their lives.

New Orleans realtor Joseph Vindel placed an ad on Facebook Marketplace to sell his red Honda dirt bike. Police found messages between him and the so-called buyer regarding the sale, which was to take place at the buyer’s apartment complex. Vindel was found the next day in his vehicle, shot to death.

As the holiday season picks up, police in Lenexa, Kansas, warned people to be vigilant after reporting a string of armed robberies involving PlayStation 5 gaming consoles advertised on Facebook Marketplace. At least three separate PlayStation 5-related robberies took place within about an hour in the area. The so-called buyers pulled out firearms and stole the items.

Earlier this year a woman was shot and killed at a busy Kansas City gas station while trying to sell a PlayStation 4, Kansas City TV5 reported. 

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Experts recommend that anyone selling or buying anything online avoids meeting at someone’s house for the transaction, but instead uses a public space to do the transaction. Not just any public space.

The Lenexa robberies show that the advice that’s been standard for years is no longer sufficient, police said.

“In the past we’ve recommended public areas, high traffic, well lit,” Lenexa Master Police Officer Danny Chavez told Kansas City TV5. “In the (PlayStation 5) cases … it seemed to meet that criteria.”

That’s why experts now suggest meeting at a police station.

Many police stations have “exchange spots” in their parking lots specifically designated for these types of meetups. If a buyer or seller has a problem meeting at a police station to do the transaction, alarms should be going off in your head.

Even if the nearest police station doesn’t have an exchange spot, the parking lot of police stations could be a deterrent. People with malicious intent will try and talk you out of meeting there, and some are skilled at it, as Mohammed “Fahad” Adil found out when he tried to sell his phone on Facebook Marketplace.

Adil did everything right, asking the so-called buyer to meet him at a police station. She talked him out of it

“This lady mentioned she worked at elementary school and that she is disabled, and she won’t be able to drive,” he told Chicago CBS Local. Adil said he felt bad and told the woman he would bring the phone to her. Within seconds of arriving at her specified Chicago-area meetup spot, Adil felt a gun pointed at his head. Two men robbed him of both his phones and the whole thing was captured on camera on his Tesla.

“In the future, I will be very much careful dealing with strangers,” Adil said. “I’m so lucky to be alive.”

Here are some strategies to buy and sell items on Facebook Marketplace safely.

  • Let others know where you are planning to meet for the transaction and take someone with you. Follow your gut instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, cancel.
  • Don’t automatically trust. Facebook Marketplace rules warn about using special caution for transactions that involve computers, mobile phones, jewelry, and other things that can be easily resold. Don’t drop your guard simply because you’re working with an acquaintance you met online, said Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com in Boston. Find out if you can see who viewed your Facebook profile.
  • Protect personal details. Some sellers or buyers will try to determine your vulnerability with questions about your working hours and whether you have a spouse or someone to help you move a heavy object. Are you home alone? Are you a single mom? Can I come into your house and take the item? Those questions should set off alarms. “(Criminals) want to understand your habits and the layout of your home so they can return and break in,” said safety expert Tom Patire of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Don’t volunteer information that could help someone rob you.
  • Collect information about the other person before the transaction. Search social media for details. Ask for a physical description and don’t let on 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,” Patire said.

Federal legislation may soon force Facebook and other online marketplaces to verify the identity of people selling things on their platforms. The INFORM Consumers Act, introduced earlier in 2021 by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, is the retail industry’s attempt to bring accountability to online marketplaces, ProPublica reported.

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