AKRON, Ohio — A 22-year-old Grafton man thought he found the right buyers for three pairs of Air Jordan sneakers, instead, he became the victim of a Sept. 28 armed robbery outside an Akron convenience store.
Akron police said the victim was using the OfferUp app, an online marketplace to arrange an in-person exchange with two people, hoping to sell the shoes for nearly $700. Investigators said one of the buyers pulled a gun and then both suspects ran-off with two pairs. Police report they managed to arrest a 16-year-old suspect in connection with the case, but said they're still looking for a second suspect.
Akron police Public Information Officer Lieutenant Michael Miller told News 5 both buyers and sellers need to use caution when setting up an in-person pick-up or sale, utilizing an on-line market place.
“We’ve had nearly a dozen of these in the last year, year-and-a-half," Miller said. “It places the seller, or the potential buyer at extreme risk.”
“And in this case they were armed, broad daylight, that didn’t deter them. We have set-up a Safe Exchange Zone in the lobby of our headquarters, where people can more safely buy and sell, there's video surveillance and there's ample parking. We’ve created alternatives, but I’m not sure why there is a hesitation to utilize that.”
“Too often there is an arranged meeting, and then the would-be buyer or suspect changes the narrative, changes the location, that is a big red flag."
Akron police had to deal with an even more violent armed robbery on Sept. 15, after two Coshocton women were victimized while try to purchase a car at an Akron church parking lot, utilizing Facebook instant messenger. A 24-year-old woman was shot, and the 40-year old woman she was with was robbed at gunpoint.
Ericka Dilworth, Cleveland Better Business Bureau Director of Operations, told News 5 buyers and sellers need utilize police departments and safe exchange zones.
“You need to remind yourself time and time again that this is a stranger," Dilworth said. “Maybe you have somebody with you, make sure that it’s a well lit place, make sure you understand that somebody else knows you’re going to be there.”
OfferUp corporate headquarters quickly responded to our story and issued the following statement:
OfferUp takes the trust and safety of our community very seriously. In partnership with law enforcement and our community, we've created safety tips and features in our app to help people stay safer when conducting exchanges with people they may not know.
You can find a good list of safety tips that you can use for your article or direct readers to here: https://blog.offerup.com/staying-safe-on-offerup-the-dos-and-donts-of-online-marketplace-transactions [blog.offerup.com]
We've partnered with more than 2,000 police departments across America to create Safe Trade Spots [safetradespots.com] that are often in the front lobby or parking lots of departments. These are normally under people or video surveillance 24/7 and have good lighting. I've attached several images for reference, but you can go on the website and type in your address and find a safer place to meet when you want to exchange something of value.
Miller stressed buyers and sellers shouldn't be afraid to pull the plug on a deal that seems suspicious.
“If there is something about it that doesn’t sound right, keep that power, keep that control and back out of the exchange," Miller said.
“Just being in public is not enough, what’s the tone of this conversation, can you verify, is this person reachable by phone even?”