Planning to buy or sell through social media? KC police offer tips to keep you safe

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With so many people searching for deals online for Christmas presents, Kansas City police say it's easier for you to potentially fall into a trap.

“If they are willing to buy it, they are willing to take it,” Det. Jacob Shroyer said. “About this time of year, we always have an increase in the number of robberies pertaining to those social media marketplaces.”

That’s something 16-year-old Luis Sanchez and his brother learned the hard way last week when they met two men to buy an iPhone from Facebook Marketplace.

Luis Sanchez

“The one that had the gun hit me in the face repeatedly; that's why I got all this," Sanchez said. "They just kept kicking me and stomping on me until I acted unconscious."

Police arrested Savion Oliver, 19, for robbery after he a friend, Calvin Williams -- who police said is still on the loose -- assaulted Sanchez, stole his car and $300 in cash.

KCPD said your best defenses are to control the point of sale by meeting at a police station or a busy area.

“If that's where you want to have it and the person doesn't want to meet there, that's a red flag," Shroyer said. "It's a clear safe place to do the buying and the selling, and if they don't want to do it there, then they may have other motives."

Shroyer also recommends you never give away your personal information, such as your address, and never deal in cash. Instead use apps such as PayPal or Venmo.

“It just adds another layer of protection," he said. "It allows you to use an escrow of some sort to hold the money on your behalf to make sure that everything is safe."

You should also do a background search on the person you’re meeting by checking out their Facebook page or other social media accounts.

“If the account was created recently, that's another red flag," Shroyer said. "Look for somebody with several years being on the app."

But most importantly, you should always follow your instincts and know when to walk away.

“If you`re not comfortable, just cancel the deal. Don't be too committed to make the sale,” he said.

Here are a few other tips KC police offered:

  • Meet in busy, well lit areas.
  • Communicate exclusively through the marketplace apps.
  • Scout a location prior to arriving for the sale.
  • Take someone with you.