URBANA – The University of Illinois Police Department is offering tips to students and community members who plan to use online sales tools like craigslist, Facebook, Venmo and many others.
In recent months, police have taken numerous reports of students being ripped off after arranging transactions with people whom they have never met in person.
- In one report, a U. of I. student reported that he had been the victim of deceptive practices on Sept. 29. The student arranged to meet an unknown person at Oglesby Hall, 1005 W. College Court, Urbana, to sell a speaker and a designer T-shirt in exchange for $420. The buyer agreed to pay the student through a Venmo transaction, but the student found out the next day that the payment did not clear. By then, the buyer had already made off with the merchandise.
- Another U. of I. student reported that he had been the victim of deceptive practices at 3:40 p.m. Oct. 4. The student met an unknown person in the 300 block of East Green Street, Champaign, to sell a $75 T-shirt. The offender promised to pay the student through Venmo, but by the time the student realized the payment did not clear, it was too late.
- In March 2017, A U. of I. student reported that a pair of designer shoes had been stolen after the student arranged to sell the shoes for $2,000 to be paid through Venmo. The buyer paid only $2, and by the time the student realized the error, the buyer had stopped returning messages.
“You have to be smart about where and with whom these transactions are happening,” said Lt. Joan Fiesta, who oversees the department’s Crime Prevention Unit. “Ideally, you can find a way to confirm someone’s identity before you arrange to make the sale.”
If someone’s profile looks suspicious or questionable for any reason, it may not be a good idea to proceed with the sale.
“Location is important, too,” Fiesta said. “Especially when meeting with someone whom you’ve never met in person, it is crucially important that the meeting take place in a safe location with a lot of traffic and preferably security cameras.”
The University of Illinois Police Department front entryway is open to the public 24/7 and is equipped with security cameras. Anyone looking to arrange a sale is encouraged to meet there.
“The simple act of proposing a meeting at the police department can be enough to turn away someone who has bad intentions,” Fiesta said. “That may be all it takes to make a safe sale.”
If anyone has been a victim of deceptive practices, they are encouraged to report the incident by calling the University of Illinois Police Department at 217-333-1216.