This week, two teens in Vancouver, Canada were arrested for three different incidents of robbery. FoxNews.com reports that the teens met with people in person who thought they were either buying or selling their smartphones. The parties met through the app OfferUp.
The OfferUp App
The site describes itself as, “The simplest way to buy and sell locally.” OfferUp brings buyers and sellers together physically who live in close proximity to one another. The service takes the form of a smartphone app and allows users to browse millions of listings for different products, message sellers through the app securely and make arrangements for the sale to take place.
Sellers simply take a photo with their smartphone and post it in the app. Then OfferUp matches the seller with buyers who live nearby. Through star ratings, both sellers and buyers can see who is trusted and who is not.
On the surface it all sounds like a great idea, but there is always the risk of something bad happening when you meet with strangers.
The Face-to-Face Meeting
The Vancouver teens took advantage of the trust level that OfferUp users have with the other party. Instead of selling a smartphone, they stole the buyer’s cash at gunpoint. Or, if they posed as buyers, they would pull a gun and steal the seller’s phone and sell it later.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Last December, Los Angeles Police warned residents of the dangers of meeting strangers through OfferUp. There were three robberies connected to the app.
The Palm Beach Post reports that there have been five robberies in Palm Beach County this year, all connected to OfferUp. In the same area, a man was carjacked at gunpoint when he was trying to sell a videogame. That meeting was also set up through OfferUp.
OfferUp encourages users to take advantage of a feature called TruYou. It allows a person to submit his or her personal information to the site. Then OfferUp will authenticate and verify that user’s identity. Users who have been verified are then identified as such on the site.
In the Trust & Safety section of their website, OfferUp lays out its Best Practices for buyers and sellers. When selecting a location to meet, the company suggests that meetings should take place, “at a public location such as a café or shopping mall…consider meeting at your local police station. We understand that people occasionally meet at a residence to purchase larger items, If this is necessary, we strongly recommend having a friend or family member with you.”
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, the world today is not a safe place. Your safety is your responsibility. Be cautious and take steps to ensure your safety at all times. Never assume a situation is safe just because it was handled through a third-party app.
If you have questions about safety and security, call American Security Force at 855-722-8585.