This is part of a larger TODAY'S TMJ4 series on Shopping Safety with stories airing all day on Monday, November 25. For more information, visit TMJ4.com/ShoppingSafety.
Many shoppers turn to the internet this time of year in search of gifts and gadgets from local sellers. This can be dangerous, but there are ways to make those purchases without getting taken advantage of.
"I've used Facebook all the time to buy decorations or even like Christmas gifts for my kids last year," said Carolyn Morris. "It's a great way to get a second life, maybe a third life out of toys that they play with for 30 seconds and then they're onto the next."
"Me and my girl do our holiday shopping for the kids; we never go to the store because they're always packed," said Demarcio Robinson.
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If you plan to buy or sell, it's important to think ahead to the moment you exchange money for goods.
"I don't really want anyone going to my home," said Kevin Rheaume.
"I usually just do what they call a porch pick up and so I leave it on my porch in a safe space and then they either Facebook or Paypal the money to me or leave cash, and it's really easy 'cause I don't actually have to interact with anyone," said Morris.
Even though it can be convenient, Capt. Dan Baumann with Waukesha police doesn't suggest meeting at your home even if you're eliminating face-to-face interaction with a porch pickup.
"It will reduce your robbery," said Capt. Baumann. You can completely remove that from the equation, but you could also get the theft component. You could get the fraud component where someone may not leave the money, or they may just take money and not leave the product."
Brown Deer, Greenfield and Waukesha are a few of the cities offering internet safety exchange locations.
"I absolutely have gone to those places for higher-end things," Morris said. "My consideration is if I'm selling $10 boots the worst that's gonna happen, in theory, is that they're going to steal the boots and never pay me and I'm out 10 bucks oh well."
Police encourage the use of the safe exchange zones, especially this time of year with thieves on the prowl.
"It doesn't mean that we're necessarily going to witness a transaction or settle any disputes or act as a mediary in the transaction, but it's going to be able to provide you a surveillance camera that's going to be watching - a quick access to the police if need be," said Baumann.
Capt. Baumann said to be leery of people not willing to meet up at a safe exchange zone.
"People that don't feel comfortable going to a police department to exchange or to make a purchase, clearly have some other intentions," said Baumann.
More tips from local police about buying/selling online:
- Only deal with local buyers/sellers
- Do not go to a transaction alone
- Make sure a friend or family member is aware of the transaction details
- Complete the transaction during daylight hours
- Be extra cautious when buying/selling valuable items
- Only use cash or money orders to complete your transactions
- Trust your instincts. If it sounds like a scam it probably is