Police say buying and selling online is convenient, but can lead to danger

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s easier than ever to buy or sell items quickly through apps and websites like Offerup and Facebook Marketplace, but the price of convenience can come with a downside.

In August 2018, Djbril Sy went to buy a phone he found through the app OfferUp.

“He said, ‘I’m about to go meet up with them.’ I said, ‘Okay, be safe,'” said his best friend, Amoudou Basse.

Within moments of arriving to an airport-area apartment complex, police say Sy was shot and killed and then robbed. His family was devastated.

“He was a good boy, my best friend,” said his mother, Kadijah Sy.

Sy’s case was one of 109 police reports in 2018 involving buy-sell apps and websites, like OfferUp, Facebook Martketplace, Flippa, LetGo, Craigslist and more.  In 2017 there were 132 police reports, while 2016 had 111.

“The apps are so ubiquitous that it’s almost impossible to get rid of stuff that you don’t want without using one, but you have to be careful,” said Sarah Rushakoff, who has used buy-sell websites and apps.

Police reports tell stories of people looking to buy or sell items, then getting robbed at gunpoint. Some people were even robbed at public places, like shopping centers and restaurants.

Suddenly, victims have guns to their heads, are fired at or their cash or merchandise is quickly grabbed.

“That’s sad,” said Cala Wright, another person who has used the apps and websites. “Like who wants their hard-earned money to be spent on something they actually want. And then for a thief to come out and steal it, like that’s sad. That`s terrible.”

A report from March 2018 says a man sold a nightstand to someone through the app OfferUp without any problems. But then the buyer then came back to his home with friends, kidnapped him at gunpoint and robbed him.

Robberies aren’t the only crimes being reported.

One woman said a man was going to come look at her TV in Cordova after she posted it on Craigslist. When he arrived, she told police the stranger kissed her on the neck, held her tight and touched her on the butt and her private areas.

“It makes me nervous because I live by myself, and you never know what a person’s intentions are when they come to pick up something,” Rushakoff said.

Authorities recommend meeting someone in the daylight at a police precinct or heavily populated public place if you’re going to do a sale. They say:

  • Take someone with you, let family and friends know your whereabouts.
  • Don’t go or invite someone you don`t know to a personal residence.
  • Do your research: Utilize social media to get a glimpse into someone`s life.

Some say the stories of what could happen are all they need to hear.

“No, I wouldn’t just go off buying stuff online like that,” Margaret Swift said.

And some families now suffer the worst from it.

“He left this earth without saying goodbye,” said Mariem Sy of her brother.

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