Las Cruces police are seeing what may be an uptick in online purchase scams that have already defrauded area residents of hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of dollars.
In one of the most recent scams, a 37-year-old Las Cruces man tried to purchase a travel trailer that was advertised for sale on OfferUp, a popular marketplace app that rivals Craigslist and emphasizes customer-to-customer transactions.
The 37-year-old man communicated only electronically with the seller and agreed to pay $800, sight unseen, for a used travel trailer. The would-be buyer wired the $800 in digital currency, in this case Bitcoin, to the seller. Only when the would-be buyer received communication from the seller demanding another $800 did he realize the online ad was a scam.
Unfortunately, it is oftentimes difficult for law enforcement to track digital currency transactions. It is highly unlikely the victim in this case will recoup his $800.
The Las Cruces Police Department suggests following these and other safety precautions:
- Refrain from purchasing high-dollar items without first meeting with the seller and verifying the product’s authenticity.
- Do your homework, first and thoroughly, before completing any financial transaction.
- Do not offer to deposit or wire currency electronically.
- Use Western Union, and other electronic transfer services, only when transferring funds to someone you know and trust.
- When possible, conduct business in person and in a safe location.
- Do not carry large amounts of cash when meeting with a would-be seller. Cash transactions are best completed within the confines of a bank or trusted dealership.
- Do not supply credit card or financial information by telephone or electronically unless you are positive of whom you’re communicating with.
- When making a secure purchase over the Internet, use a credit card – not a debit card – as credit card transactions are easier to dispute if necessary.
- Be cautious of unsolicited inquiries, telephone calls, texts or electronic messages.
- Remember that if a deal appears too good to be true, it probably is.
- Immediately report to police all incidents of suspected fraud.