By Alesha Capone
Police have warned residents of a “notable increase” in thefts and assaults linked to online and social media marketplaces.
Senior Sergeant Aaron Riches said police in Wyndham, Hobsons Bay and Maribyrnong have seen an increase in people posing as potential buyers of items which are advertised on buy, swap and sell sites.
He said the offenders – who were often males using fake names – asked the sellers to meet in places such as parks, residential addresses and secluded locations during the afternoon or evening, then stole the item being offered for sale.
Senior Sergeant Riches said the thefts sometimes resulted in the victim being assaulted, usually being pushed or punched.
He said there had been reports of incidents in suburbs including Williams Landing, Tarneit, Braybrook, Altona North, Manor Lakes and Point Cook.
Since the start of the year, there had been “a significant ramp-up” in the incidents, he said.
“It’s always a concern for us and we’ve thrown significant police resources at it,” Senior Sergeant Riches said.
He said police advised anyone selling items online to use a platform such as eBay, which offers built-in protections for buyers and sellers.
He said it was also safer for sellers to mail items to buyers, rather than meeting them face-to-face.
Senior Sergeant Riches said that if a seller requested to meet, the buyer should arrange to see them in a public place with CCTV, such as a police station foyer, fast food outlet or petrol station.
He also advised people to take a friend to the meet-ups, beware of overly amicable sellers and maintain communications through the online selling platform, rather than mobile phone SMS messages.
He said police were working with councils to educate multicultural communities on ways to avoid becoming a victim; were being interviewed on multicultural radio stations to raise awareness; and were including safety tips in presentations at schools and universities.