The Avon Police Department creates safe spaces for online shopping exchanges

In front of the Avon Police Department, a sign donated by OfferUp indicates that the department is a safe and secure community meeting place for people to meet for internet exchange transactions.
Ash Lohmann / Vail Daily

The Avon Police Department is sporting two new signs marking spots in the department where people are encouraged to meet for internet shopping exchanges.

OfferUp, an online marketplace that hosts personal transactions, donated the badges to the police department. One is in the parking lot in front of the building, and the other is in the lobby of the station.

Avon Police Officer Andy Sandoval said each precinct offers different safety features for community members who choose to meet there to facilitate operations.

At a community meeting place outside the police department, Sandoval said people have 24/7 access to a secure space with video surveillance. He said for these foreign operations, people don’t even need to inform police officers that they are meeting there.

“But if you want an officer to come out and help make it easier, we’re more than happy to do that,” Sandoval said.

Support for Local Journalism

In addition to video footage recorded outside the Avon Police Department, officers who help facilitate operations outside the station will also have access to video and audio from their own body cameras during the meeting.

If the operation takes place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Sandoval said people can use the indoor community meeting space. With a closed meeting location, people can conduct their transactions in the lobby of the Avon Police Department or in the department’s interview room. Sandoval said that both of these points have not only video surveillance of the operation, but also audio surveillance.

With the security offered at meeting locations at the Avon Police Department, Sandoval said officers have a better chance of detecting and stopping fraud, which can often occur during Internet transactions.

“We get so many fraudulent (transactions) that you have no idea — it’s crazy,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said the in-person meeting is a big step people can take to better ensure the transaction isn’t fraudulent. However, he explained that even with in-person transactions, fraud can still be possible. As such, Sandoval encouraged anyone unsure of the legality of their Internet transactions to contact the department for assistance.

With all the tools at their disposal, Sandoval said Avon Police Officers can spot a scam more easily than the average consumer.

“That’s why we’re here,” Sandoval said. “People usually think we’re here to arrest people or, you know, we’re here to put people away, but really, we’re here to serve our community. So if our community needs help checking if something is fake or not, let us know. We can even look it up for you and check if it’s legit.”

In the end, he said, double-checking the legitimacy of a transaction beforehand can prevent people from losing money or getting into trouble.

For example, Sandoval said people who unknowingly drive with fake license plates are still being penalized.

“I know we’ve been seeing cases like this in the community lately where people are selling fake plates to people who think they’re legitimate plates,” Sandoval said. “If you’re caught driving one of these, unfortunately you don’t even know there’s a charge. It’s always best to prevent people from getting into trouble who really don’t deserve it. So if we can help with that, that would be great.”

Even if people choose to do Internet exchanges themselves, Sandoval said there are steps to be taken to be smarter about the risk of fraud.

“We always encourage people to do it in a well-lit public area with footage, you know, video footage,” Sandoval says.

Additionally, Sandoval said it’s a good idea to bring another person along for the meeting.

“And at any point when they facilitate that, if, as you know, it could be a hoax, call (the Avon Police Department) and we’ll be happy to respond and assist,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval also advised people to look at the person on the other end of the screen before proceeding with exchanges.

“Never complete a transaction unless you know exactly what you’re getting and that the person is legitimate,” Sandoval said. “When buying things online, it’s always a good idea to look at a person’s profile, see reviews of other times they’ve sold items, or look up information about them.”

If exchanges are being set up through Facebook, Sandoval said it’s wise to look at their profile for any red flags that might indicate the transaction may be fraudulent.

“Sometimes we have scam sellers who create fake Facebook accounts and they have no friends, no photos, they just create to sell an item and after they sell the item they kind of delete it and we just don’t have any leads. on it.”

Before sending money to someone online, it’s also a good idea to verify a person via video or FaceTime, Sandoval said. However, he reiterates that the best option is always to meet in person in a well-lit and public place.

“(People) are happy to come to the Avon Police Department if they happen to be in a different agency (jurisdiction), in a different city, in a different county, and they want to make sure that what they’re doing is legal. You know, our community is not just Avon,” Sandoval said. “Our community is people in the United States. We serve everyone, so whoever is here and they need help, let us know and we can make it easier.”

Source link