Police see spike in robberies linked to internet site purchases

JSO: Potential online buyers being lured to vacant properties, robbed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Robberies related to local internet site purchases have increased, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office warned Tuesday.

Last week, police said, potential online buyers were lured to a vacant residence on Cavalier Road to complete a transaction when they were robbed at gunpoint. Purses, wallets and even a car were stolen.

Buying and selling items has become an easy task because of apps like OfferUp, in which shoppers can get just about anything from purses to electronics.

"What we've seen a rise in is sort of set-up robberies. There is no product to buy. It's a scam if you will," said Officer Christian Hancock, with JSO.

Hancock said they're still searching for several people who claimed to be selling electronics on the OfferUp app, but instead led buyers to abandoned properties and robbed them.

"We don't know that they're the same individuals. We just know there's a lot of people doing it because there's a lot of people shopping online," Hancock said.

That means there's a greater chance of becoming a victim.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith offered some advice to anyone who has to complete an online transaction in person. He said buyers need to bring a cellphone so they can let a friend or family member know where they are, or better yet, bring someone along.

Online buyers should also meet sellers at a public place, like at the JSO Police Memorial Building. The Sheriff's Office will also let people complete transactions at any of its substations around town.

"As a suspect, I'm not going to meet you at a substation to commit a crime," Hancock said.

Hancock admitted it's difficult to catch the suspects in these cases because most of the communication is done online.

"We don't have concrete evidence as to what happened, who you're dealing with. We have the ability to look online and try to trace the transactions, but a lot of people don't use their real names, they make fake accounts," Hancock said. "It's harder for us."

When meeting a buyer, it's also advised to write down the seller's license plate number or vehicle description.

To view a list of JSO substation locations, click here.