Police in Lancaster County are warning residents that they're seeing an increasing number of thefts associated with online classified ads.
Manheim Township police said the thefts have occurred at locations where buyers and sellers have agreed to meet, and usually involve the sale of a smartphone or electronic device.
The thieves sometimes advertise items for sale and run off with the buyer's money once they have it, and other times respond to the ads and take off with the item for sale, police said.
Police warned that crimes involving online classified ads can lead not only to theft, but assault and robbery.
Authorities said those who want to buy or sell an item through an online classified ad should use caution when meeting somebody they don't know to complete the purchase.
They also offered the following advice:
- avoid traveling out of the area to meet somebody;
- accept only cash, avoiding personal checks and money orders;
- be sure to see the item in person first;
- get the person's name, email, and phone number in advance, and use that information to research who they are;
- make contact with the other party more than just one time, and avoid rushing to complete the purchase;
- bring at least one other adult to conduct the transaction;
- meet in a public place, other than a parking lot, where the transaction will be observed by others; and
- if something seems suspicious, trust your instincts and leave.
Police said those intent on committing such crimes are interested in setting up and completing the sale quickly, and usually cannot be located afterwards.