Linda Geist

COLUMBIA, Mo.  – Increasing use of social media creates opportunities for thieves to rob you during the post-holiday season, says University of Missouri Extension Law Enforcement Training Institute director John Worden.

Facebook swap shop pages and Craigslist ads bustle with items for sale. Sellers tempt you with phrases like “got two for Christmas, selling extra for cheap” or “child didn’t like.”

Beware if the price sounds too good to be true, Worden says. Be careful where you meet the seller also.

He offers the following suggestions:

• Meet at a well-lit public location in a neighborhood you are familiar with, preferably one with security cameras,Worden says. Some police stations offer safe meet-up spots for buyers and sellers.

• Don’t go to a person’s house to look at or pick up an item. If the item is large, such as a piece of furniture, take another person with you and tell others where and when you are going.

• Set details such as when, where and how payment will be made before you meet. Have the exact amount of cash to pay.

• Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, leave.

• Don’t let the seller talk you into leaving the agreed-upon location to go to his or her house or another location. They should have the object with them.

• If you are selling items, consider taking someone else with you.

• Make it clear to the buyer that they should have the exact cash amount.

• Consider donating items instead of selling.

• Don’t pay or offer to receive hold fees. Some scam artists will tell you that they will send earnest money to hold an item until they are able to get it. When they do this, they obtain your address, phone number and other information about when you will and won’t be home.

The key to safety is to always follow your instincts and be willing to walk away from a deal, Worden says. “If you need to walk away from the transaction, walk away.”

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