String of Kijiji robberies come with ‘red flags’ say experts

WATCH ABOVE: Red flags to spot when shopping online. Peter Kim reports.

TORONTO – Two 17-year-olds have been charged with robbery and theft under $5000 after allegedly luring victims online through the popular online marketplace Kijiji.

“In some scenarios it was agreed that the actual sellers would come and meet the buyers, but then at the last minute they indicated, ‘no, how about you come meet us’ and it was always during the later hours of the day,” according to Cst. Jenifferjit Sidhu of the Toronto Police. “Once the victims arrived, they would have been jumped by the sellers of their belongings.”

The last-minute change in plans and insistence on meeting later in the evening are two red flags according to those who’ve researched the patterns of the online marketplace – websites like Craigslist and Kijiji – where users can sell their goods to whoever’s willing to buy them.

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“Criminals can remain anonymous on the Internet so you don’t know who they are, where they are, and that ability to remain anonymous puts them in a better position to commit fraud,” according to Tom Vassos, social marketing expert and author of Desitination Innovation.

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Vassos warns that a sense of urgency to move merchandise should be cause for concern.

“They try and get you to do something as quick as you can so you don’t have time to think about it and put safeguards in place to make sure it’s a legitimate transaction,” he said.

Orchard is an online platform that was developed in response to fraudulent iPhone sales. Founder Bruno Wong says how an ad is written can be quite telling. Vague details and lack of product knowledge are two warning signs that could show criminal intent.

“People who have a firm grasp of what they’re selling can usually give you a lot of details. When you don’t see that detail, I would definitely perk up,” Wong said.

Deciding on a location to exchange funds for products is also a way to determine whether the seller, or buyer, is legitimate.

“Meet in person, meet in a public place like a coffee shop, bring along a male friend. And do it during the daytime rather than the night,” said Vassos.

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Common sense goes a long way. Both Vassos and Wong agree: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It’s estimated that more than 4000 phones are reported lost or stolen in Canada every year. Around half of those are in Ontario.

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