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Tips to avoid danger in online classified deal exchanges

PHOENIX — Shoppers are looking for a red-hot deal online and police are concerned that Craigslist thefts could jump during the holidays.

The biggest mistake people make is taking community classified sites such as Craigslist at face value, that it’s as simple as an exchange of cash for goods. But it could be an opportunity for the criminal-minded.

Retired Phoenix Police Sgt. Andy Hill said buyers should never allow sellers in their homes.

“Make sure you’re meeting them in a public place that has lots of people around. Not in a parking lot and not in a business that has nobody there.”

Hill recommended bringing along backup and to meet in a familiar area.

“Don’t go it alone,” he said, and “make sure you’re not being followed home. Do not give out your address or other personal information. You want to make sure they’re not backtracking you to know you won’t be at home if you’re going somewhere else to meet them.”

Hill said another red flag that there could be trouble is when the seller changes the meeting location at the last minute.

Hill also said to check the merchandise to make sure it’s what was promised and try to complete as much of the deal as possible before giving up the cash.