The Avon Police Department has two new signs marking places in the department where people are encouraged to meet for internet purchase exchanges.
OfferUp, an online marketplace that hosts in-person transactions, donated the plates to the police. One is located at the front of the building in the parking lot and the other sign is in the station lobby.
Avon Police Officer Andy Sandoval said each spot offers different elements of security for community members who choose to meet there to facilitate transactions.
At the community meeting point outside the police station, Sandoval said people have 24/7 access to a safe place with video surveillance. He said that for these outside transactions, people don’t even have to let the police know they’re meeting there.
“But if you want an officer to walk out and help facilitate you, we’re happy to do that,” Sandoval said.
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In addition to the video footage recorded outside of the Avon Police Department, officers helping to facilitate out-of-office transactions also have access to their bodycam video and audio footage of the meeting.
If the transaction takes place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Sandoval said people can use the meeting place indoors. The covered meeting place allows people to have their transaction in the lobby of the Avon Police Department or the department’s interrogation room. Sandoval said both places not only have video surveillance of the transaction, but also audio surveillance.
With the security provided at Avon Police Department meeting locations, Sandoval said officers have a greater chance of detecting and stopping fraudulent activity that is so common in Internet transactions.
“We get so many fraudulent (transactions), you have no idea — it’s insane,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval said a face-to-face meeting is a great step people can take to better ensure a transaction isn’t fraudulent. But even in personal transactions, he explains, fraud is still likely. So Sandoval encouraged anyone unsure of the legitimacy of their Internet transactions to contact the department for help.
With all the tools at their disposal, Avon police officers can spot a scam more easily than the average consumer, according to Sandoval.
“That’s why we’re here,” Sandoval said. “People usually think we’re here to arrest people or to pull people over, but in reality we’re here to serve our community. So if our community needs help verifying if something is fraudulent, let us know. We can even look it up for you and verify whether it’s legit or not.”
Ultimately, he said, double-checking the legitimacy of a transaction beforehand can prevent people from losing money or getting into trouble.
For example, Sandoval said that people who unknowingly drive around with fictitious license plates are still punishable.
“I know we’ve had that a lot here in the community lately, where people are selling fake license plates to people who think they’re legitimate license plates,” Sandoval said. “If you get caught driving one of those cars, it’s a charge, even if you don’t know it unfortunately. It’s always good to avoid getting into trouble for people who don’t really deserve it. So if we can help with that, that would be great.”
Even if people choose to conduct Internet exchanges themselves, Sandoval said steps can be taken to be smarter about fraud risk.
“We always encourage people to do it in a public space where there’s footage, you know, video footage, where it’s well lit,” Sandoval said.
In addition, Sandoval said it’s a good idea to bring someone else to the meeting.
“And if at any point they make it possible, if it feels like, you know, it might be fraudulent, call (Avon Police Department) and we’ll be happy to respond and help with that,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval also recommended that people look into the person on the other side of the screen before proceeding with exchanges.
“Never complete a transaction unless you are sure of what you are getting and that person is legit,” Sandoval said. “When buying things online, it’s always good to look at the person’s profile, reviews they might have from other times they’ve sold items, or you know, information about them.”
If exchanges are made through Facebook, Sandoval said it’s wise to check their profile for red flags that could indicate the transaction may be fraudulent.
“Sometimes we have fraudulent sellers who create fake Facebook accounts and they have no friends, no pictures, they just create one to sell an item and once they sell the item they kind of delete it and we just run out of leads.” on that.”
Verifying a person via video or FaceTime may also be a good idea before sending money to someone online, Sandoval said. However, he reiterated that the best option is always to meet in person in a well-lit and public area.
“(If people) happen to be in a different agency (jurisdiction), different city, different county and they want to make sure what they’re doing is legit, they’re more than welcome to come here to Avon Police Department know you, our community is not just Avon,” Sandoval said. “Our community is the people here in the United States. We serve everyone, so whoever is here and needs help, let us know and we can facilitate that.