Gatineau police issue warning about thefts related to online marketplaces
Gatineau Police (SPVG) received five complaints so far this year from Outaouais residents about theft related to buying or selling items online through sites such as Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji.
According to the SPVG, the complaints usually involve the purchase of electronics. In most cases, there is an exchange between the potential buyer and seller where they arrange to meet at a certain location in Gatineau. In four of the five cases, the seller arrived and the buyer was not present and called to explain that he was late because he was withdrawing money at an ATM for the transaction. After the buyer arrives, he hands the seller an envelope that appears to be filled with money and, as the seller checks the contents of the envelope, the suspect flees. The envelope does not have money in it, but is filled with paper or tissues.
In one of the cases, the victim was sprayed with cayenne pepper before the suspect fled.
After the incidents, the suspect blocks the victim on the social media platform used for the exchange, so they are unable to contact them.
In another incident, the seller of an Iphone arranged to go to the buyer's house to exchange the item. The buyer paid for the phone in cash and, after the suspect left, the buyer turned the phone on where it displayed an Android logo and saw that the screen was poor quality; there were spelling errors in the phone; and many functions did not work.
The SPVG says they are considering creating safe exchange zones in the city in an attempt to prevent these incidents from occurring.
The SPVG provided tips to help prevent these incidents from occurring:
- Look at the potential seller’s or buyer's profile. If there is little information or it seems to have been created recently, be cautious.
- Meet in public places during the day when it is busy is best.
- It is important to ensure that any form of payment is valid before giving the item to the potential buyer, even if they ask to inspect the item first.
- If the price of the advertised item is much lower than the value of the item, be cautious, especially if the ad indicates that it is new or almost new.
- Buyers should ask for more information or photos of the item. They may also want to “reverse image search” the photo to ensure that it is not from another ad.
- Buyers should ask the seller to show them the item from a distance before making the payment to ensure there are no visible issues with the item.