Stay safe on social media marketplaces

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2017

By Matt Hutcheson

Craigslist and social-media based Buy/Sell/Trade groups are extremely popular methods of selling and buying goods on a local level. The Butler County and Greenville Buy/Sell/Trade groups on Facebook, for example, boast 7,100 and 26,000 members respectively. The membership of the Greenville page is especially astounding since, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of all of Butler County was 20,154 as of 2015.

These types of live, localized classified pages are convenient and lucrative, allowing members to see new listings in real time and sellers to gain quick exposure to a massive potential clientele. But the wide exposure has a dark side, as scams and robberies are a well-known danger associated with online classifieds. The nature of a Craigslist ad or post on social media allows potential scammers to hide behind a wall of anonymity and craft a narrative and identity that appears legitimate.

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Two Greenville men were arrested in Dec. 2016 for using fake Facebook profiles to lure victims into robberies, managing to steal several game consoles and a television before law enforcement tracked them down. The risk of incidents such as this occurring can be reduced by taking precautions when planning or traveling to a meeting.

If interacting on Facebook, a relatively easy first step is checking a person’s profile to see if it appears legitimate. Buy/Sell/Trade pages are filled with people local to the area, so looking for clear signs such as mutual friends and references to local places and events can help to give an idea if a person is who they say they are.

For meetings, the most important rule is meeting in a public, well-lit place. Greenville Police Department Chief Justin Lovvorn recommends “a heavily populated area such as a… bank parking lot, or shopping center parking lot” and to “tell someone, who is not with you, where you are going, who you are going to meet… and when you expect to be back.” Suggesting locations with security cameras or an obvious law enforcement presence could help deter potential scammers before a meeting even takes place.

Avoiding scams such as identity theft is also important when buying and selling online. Lovvorn’s advises to take steps such as “[reading] reviews to see if other consumers have had positive or negative experiences with a site” or individual. Websites with “https://” in the URL are secured and more likely to protect personal information. Lovvorn also said that “using a pre-paid credit card… when making online purchases” is the best way to avoid giving up any personal information.

Social media marketplaces are useful tools for finding everything from cars to jewelry and clothes locally and, like any tool, are best used with caution and foresight.