Staying Safe When Buying or Selling On-line

On-line advertising is a great way to buy and to sell items.  Searching for items for sale, or listing items to sell, has never been easier, quicker, or cheaper as it has been with the use of internet and sites that specialize in this type of advertising.  As with everything that is good, people with ill intent find ways to take advantage, so it is important to take safety precautions when meeting unknown persons to buy or sell property.

craigslist-ebay-kijiji-yahoo-autos-cars-alpha1Most people don’t consider their personal safety an issue when it comes to selling or buying items on-line.   However there have been numerous incidents across Canada recently that should have you at least thinking about it.  If you are thinking “it wouldn’t happen to me”, I challenge you to type the name of a popular on-line advertiser along with “robbery” or “robbed” into your internet search engine and behold the results.  The most preeminent case in Canada occurred this past May (2013). Tim Bosma, a husband and father from Hamilton, ON was reported missing and later discovered murdered, after taking two unknown individuals who were interested in buying his pickup truck on a test drive.  Mr. Bosma had advertised his truck on-line.

Personnel safety planning is important when you are considering on-line advertising to buy or sell.   

Here are some tips that can help you stay safe when meeting a stranger to buy or sell an item: 

1)     Do not share any personal information such as your full name, address or home telephone number.  Most websites set up for advertising allow potential buyers to initially contact sellers through e-mail.  Only give out enough information to help you buy or sell the product as you are dealing with a stranger.

2)     If you need to use a telephone number use a cell phone as it is harder for someone to find out personal information about the owner of cell phone numbers than your home telephone, especially if your home telephone number is listed.

3)     Always have a friend or two with you when you buy or sell items.  There is safety in numbers.

4)     Arrange meetings with the buyer or seller in an agreed upon public area and during day light hours.  If the other party changes the arrangements at the last minute be wary.

5)      If the meeting has to be done in your home make the meeting a two-step process.  Meet in a public area close to your house and ask them for some form of official identification, such as a driver’s license and make note of the person you are dealing with.  If you are comfortable after meeting them, then have them follow you to your house.    If more than one person enters your house make sure you keep them together.

6)     If you are buying an expensive item consider making two meetings with the seller.  The first to view the item, gather information about it and to judge the character of the person selling it.  The second to exchange the money.  Most people selling big ticket items won’t mind doing this if you are upfront about it.  Tell them you want to view it first and if you are interested you will come back quickly to buy it.

7)     If things seem suspicious then don’t follow through with the deal.


These tips only deal with personal safety and not becoming a victim of violence. There are many other safety tips concerning fraudulent sales and scams that can be found on the internet sites used to sell items.    I highly recommend reading them prior to posting an item for sale.

Dean Hamm, S/Sgt. “K” Division Community Policing