Trinidad police warn about Facebook marketplace scams

Port of Spain – The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) TTPS Cyber and Social Media Unit (CSMU) on Wednesday warned of the prevalence of scams targeting unsuspecting online buyers, particularly those using Facebook Marketplace.

In a statement, the CSMU said that criminals were exploiting this platform to orchestrate robberies, a trend not unique to Trinidad and Tobago, but prevalent worldwide.

“The CSMU expresses concern over numerous reported cases where individuals advertising goods online fall victim to robberies or more serious crimes after being deceived by criminals posing as buyers as well as seller,” it said, adding that these criminals arrange meet-ups under the guise of purchasing items, such as electronics or vehicles, advertised on Facebook Marketplace.

But CSMU said what initially appears as smooth transactions, take a dangerous turn when the suspects brandish firearms and demand cash and other valuables from the victims.

It said that the modus operandi often entail the seller creating fraudulent Facebook and Instagram accounts. It also includes communication initiated by a female via WhatsApp, luring victims to a specific location where two to three male accomplices, armed with firearms, carry out the robberies.

“Despite these incidents, it’s crucial to emphasize that the CSMU is actively assisting investigators in the ongoing investigation of such occurrences. While the CSMU does not dissuade the public from utilising online advertising platforms, caution must be exercised to avoid becoming a victim.

“We strongly urge individuals to utilise designated “Safe Exchange Zones” when meeting up for transactions initiated through online market platforms,” it said, adding that these areas, include police stations, well-lit areas, and those equipped with CCTV cameras.

“It’s essential to be particularly cautious when dealing with individuals who refuse to meet at such locations,” it said, adding that people conducting transactions on online marketplaces, should several measures including review the profile of the buyer/seller for authenticity as well as checking for reviews or ratings that may indicate suspicious behaviour.

It said people should be wary of “unusually low prices, as they may signal a scam” and that they should arrange meetings during daylight hours in public places with high foot traffic, while “avoiding isolated areas at all costs”.

The police are also encouraging people to always inspect items before making payment and use secure payment options and also consider bringing a friend along for additional safety.

In addition, the police is urging people to avoid carrying substantial amounts of cash on your person.

“Your safety is paramount, and by remaining vigilant and following these precautions, we can collectively combat online scams and ensure safer transactions for all,” the CSMU added. (CMC)

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