Online purchases end in gunpoint robberies

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – A string of armed robberies has Hartford police warning about a dangerous online scam. It involves people arranging to buy phones and cars online, then getting robbed at gunpoint when they show up for the exchange.

Most of the case involve the auction sites “OfferUp” or “LetGo”. You can find some bargains using their websites and apps, but you can also find crooks looking to rip you off.

“Understand, you’re making yourself a victim if you’re coming in here with a boatload of cash and expecting to get the deal of a lifetime in a neighborhood you’re unfamiliar with,” said Hartford Police Deputy Chief Brian Foley.

That is exactly what is bringing people from other places into Hartford, where they get robbed at gunpoint. It has happened at least 6 times in the past 5 weeks. The robbers lure victims to an unfamiliar neighborhood by offering a deal on expensive electronics for a low price.

“Or they’ll look out their window, see a car that’s been sitting there and say, ‘Hey let’s put it for sale on Craig’s List or on OfferUp or on Letgo,’ and they put it up there and they just wait for the victim to come with cash,” Foley explained.

Two of the robberies involved the same address, 68 Deerfield Avenue, in Hartford’s north end. Two weeks ago, victims from Waterbury came to that address thinking they were buying an iPhone. Instead, they were robbed at gunpoint of $200. Then, just last Friday, victims from New Britain came to Deerfield Avenue to look at a car. They were robbed of their purses, phones, and $100 in cash.

Robberies like that are a trend, and not just happening in Hartford. Last winter, police in Guilford took action to try to prevent those kid of robberies by putting up a sign and turning the police station parking lot into an official internet purchase exchange location. Hartford police recommend using their parking lot for the same purpose. That is something the websites encourage as well. They are working with police on all these investigations.

“OfferUp and Letgo, their security people that they have have been very forthright with us,” said Foley. “Offerup gave us a sign to put in our parking lot. they hate to have this stigma attached to them as well.”

Not every police station has an official sign, but just about every one has surveillance cameras. If the person selling you an iPhone is not willing to meet you at a place where police are watching, maybe the deal they’re offering is too good to be true.

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