Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had 19 robberies originating from online sales. They’ve been increasing in frequency, with six so far in May. Just this past Saturday, a victim agreed to meet someone through the LetGo app at a church parking lot in the 5500 block of Wayne to buy an iPhone 8s Plus. Two suspects got into the victims’ vehicle. They began to discuss price, but then one of them pulled a gun, threatened the victim, and took his money. Investigation is ongoing.
Last week, we put signage in each of our six patrol division station public parking lots designating them internet exchange zones during daylight hours. (You can find the patrol division nearest you on the front page of kcpd.org.) We wanted to provide a designated place with plenty of police presence for the public to conduct these transactions. Hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people are making these exchanges across Kansas City every day. Our mission statement is to protect and serve with professionalism, honor and integrity. We believe providing these safe internet exchange zones both protects residents and serves a growing demand for secure internet transaction spaces.
It also provides a great deterrent. If a buyer or seller is unwilling to meet you at a police station for the transaction, you should be very wary. Don’t sacrifice your safety for convenience or a lower price. Speaking of price, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. No legitimate seller is offering the latest iPhone for $150. This is a common tactic used to lure victims to a robbery, and they will often use the price as an excuse for victims to meet them in a questionable location.
Buyers and sellers should keep all their communication about the transaction in the app they’re using and not give out their personal phone numbers. Users also should use the app to look at the profile of the buyer/seller: is it new? Verified? Avoid sites that offer total anonymity and no safeguards.
We also encourage people not to use cash for in-person transactions. If possible, use reputable apps to transfer money online. Carrying cash is a liability and could set you up to be the victim of a crime.
Hopefully, all these safety tips won’t even be needed if you’re meeting in one of our internet exchange zones. The idea is that they will attract only legitimate buyers and sellers. We’re also hoping that just proposing one of our police stations as a meeting place will put off anyone who had nefarious plans.
Even if you don’t choose our sites, choose some place safe. Don’t drive to places you’re unfamiliar with to make the exchange. Meet near the entrance or inside of a very public place or business with surveillance cameras and lots of foot traffic.
We can’t be everywhere to ensure safe transactions, but we’re hoping that by providing designated exchange areas, buyers and sellers can conduct business with fewer worries.
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