Avon Police Department creates safe spots for internet purchase exchanges | VailDaily.com

Avon Police Department creates safe spots for internet purchase exchanges

Spots provide security for residents to avoid fraud

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

The Avon Police Department is sporting two new signs that mark spots at the department where people are encouraged to meet up for internet purchase exchanges. 

OfferUp, an online marketplace that harbors in-person transactions, donated the signs to the police department. One is located out front of the building in the parking lot and the other sign resides in the station’s lobby. 

Avon Police Officer Andy Sandoval said each spot offers different elements of security for community members who choose to meet there to facilitate transactions. 

At the community meetup spot located outside the police department, Sandoval said people have 24/7 access to a safe spot with video surveillance. He said for these outside transactions, people don’t even need to let police officers know they are meeting there. 

“But, if you’d like an officer to walk out and help facilitate, we are more than happy to do that,” Sandoval said. 

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On top of the video footage recorded outside the Avon Police Department, officers helping facilitate transactions occurring outside the station will also have access to their bodycam video and audio footage of the meetup.

If the transaction is occurring between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Sandoval said people can use the indoor community meetup spot. With the indoor meetup spot, people can either hold their transaction in the lobby of the Avon Police Department or in the department’s interview room. Sandoval said both of these spots not only have video surveillance of the transaction but audio surveillance as well. 

With the security offered in the meetup locations at the Avon Police Department, Sandoval said officers may have a greater chance of detecting and stopping fraudulent activity that can so often occur with internet transactions. 

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

Sandoval said meeting in person is a great step people can take to better ensure a transaction isn’t fraudulent. However, even with in-person transactions, he explained that fraud can still be likely. So, Sandoval encouraged anyone unsure of the legitimacy of their internet transactions to contact the department for assistance. 

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

“That’s why we’re here,” Sandoval said. “People typically think we’re here to arrest people or you know, pull people over, but really, we’re here to serve our community. So, if our community needs help verifying if something is fraudulent, let us know. We could even look it up for you and verify if it’s legit or not.”

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 unknowingly driving around with fictitious license plates are still privy to punishment. 

“I know that we’ve had a lot of that here lately in the community, where people are selling fake plates to people who think they’re legitimate plates,” Sandoval said. “If you’re caught driving one of those, it’s a charge even if you don’t know, unfortunately. It’s always good to prevent people from getting in trouble that don’t really deserve it. So, if we can help with that, that’d be awesome.”

Even if people choose to conduct internet exchanges on their own, Sandoval said there are steps one can take to be smarter about fraud risk. 

“We always encourage people to do it in a public area where there’s footage, you know, video footage, where it’s well-lighted,” Sandoval said. 

Additionally, Sandoval said bringing another person along for the meetup is a good idea. 

“And if at any point when they’re facilitating it, if it feels like, you know, it might be fraudulent, give (Avon Police Department) a call and we’d be more than happy to respond and help out with that,” Sandoval said. 

Sandoval also recommended people look into the person on the other end of the screen before proceeding with exchanges.

“Never finalize a transaction unless you know for certain what you’re getting and that person is legit,” Sandoval said. “When you’re buying things online, it’s always good to look at the person’s profile, look at reviews that they may have from other times they’ve sold items, or you know, information about them.”

If exchanges are being established via Facebook, Sandoval said it is wise to look over their profile for any red flags that could indicate the transaction may be fraudulent. 

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

Verifying a person through video or FaceTime can also be a good idea before sending money to someone online, Sandoval said. However, he said that again, the best option is always to meet in person in a well-lit and public area. 

“(If people) happen to be in a different agency’s (jurisdiction), different town, different county and they want to make sure what they’re doing is legit, they’re more than welcome to come here to the Avon Police Department, you know, our community isn’t just Avon,” Sandoval said. “Our community is the people here in the United States. We serve anyone, so whoever is here and they need help, just let us know and we could facilitate that.”

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