Safety Tips from Detective Sergeant Nick Ferrara of Gainesville, FL Pt. 2

Community Manager

Last week, we were introduced to Detective Sergeant Nick Fererra and learned about his background into law enforcement and some of his favorite OfferUp safety features. This week we will learn more about the tips Nick has on using OfferUp as safely as possible. With his background in financial and organized crimes, he certainly has some insightful information on keeping your money safe.




- Do you have any tips on checking for counterfeit money?

In regards to online sales involving counterfeit money, I have noticed a number of clues which indicate something is “fishy” with the money. When in doubt, it’s best to have a counterfeit detection pen to ensure the money is not counterfeit.

Some clues would include the following in no particular order:

  • Almost all of the transactions are at night and in a somewhat poorly lit area which prevents the seller from having ample lighting to inspect the money.
  • The buyer is usually in a rush and wants to take possession of the item before the seller has enough time to actually look at the money. Many times, the money is literally thrown at the seller to inspect and the buyer will take off with the item.
  • The money is usually presented in a condition where it is folded onto itself or crumpled up which adds time to the inspection process by the seller.
  • Most counterfeit bills are in the $50 and $100 denominations as well. Most counterfeiters are not in the business of counterfeiting $1’s, $5’s, and $10’s - it’s just not worth it.  
  • A somewhat new scam is the use of various types of “novelty” or “motion picture use only” money that looks very real when you quickly glance at it. These fake bills, though not true counterfeit, will usually all have the same serial numbers and unique markings.  One common type we routinely see is “Movie money” which has red or pink Chinese characters stamped on it, along with various dash marks.
  • As far as how to spot a true counterfeit (quite the oxymoron), go online to the  and follow the normal tips for spotting a fake. This would include the presence of the embedded security strip, the watermark, the color shifting ink, clarity of the printing, and the overall size and feel of the paper. Most importantly, if someone hands you a stack of bills all with the same serial number, that’s a red flag.  

Movie Money.png


- What should community members look for in regards to scammers wanting to use 3rd party payment systems (PayPal, Venmo, etc)

Most transactions which have gone sour usually involve counterfeit money or counterfeit merchandise, particularly the Chinese iPhone knockoffs being sold as real iPhones. I would recommend this to everyone - never give someone access to your personal information or financial information in order for the transaction to go through. I have seen this with several online scams where the victim divulged a little too much information and allowed a buyer to gain access to their Paypal account. In the end, their account was wiped out by the buyer.

As far as sales using apps like OfferUp, aside from using payment features the app may already have, cash is king, as long as it’s not counterfeit.  


- General tips and tricks for staying safe


As far as general tips to be safe, I can offer the following advice which may be duplicated in some of the other blog posts.

  • Use common sense in all decisions throughout the buying and selling process. Trust your gut. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If something doesn’t feel right, simply walk away. You have no obligation to follow through with an arrangement. You did not agree to meet this person to make a new friend or wow them with a first impression, if you feel uncomfortable, walk away and try another day.
  • Do your research with the person you are communicating with. Start collecting future evidence in case you are scammed by this person. Keep your chats in the app where OfferUp can monitor and take action if needed. Take screenshots of your conversations, the profile page, the items in question, heck, you could even take a picture of the person or their vehicle when they arrive (tag number would be awesome). It will help later if law enforcement needs it.  You are looking out for your best interest.
  • Meet at a public place that is well lit with plenty of “natural surveillance” present. This means, select a meetup location where members of the general public frequent it as well. Choosing a location with a recording camera system would be a plus as well. When in the app, choose an OfferUp Community MeetUp Spot which is a perfect location to conduct these transactions.  You can also check out  
  • If possible, bring someone with you to be a witness to the transactions. If a potential robbery was going to take place, the person might be deterred knowing a second set of eyes are present. This second person can also be the person who nonchalantly snaps a picture of the other party and his/her vehicle.
  • Never allow the other party to get in a position/location with your items allowing them to make a quick getaway before you collect your money.
  • If you arrive in a vehicle, get out and stand off to the side or another location close to it. When you remain in the vehicle and allow the other party to negotiate with you through the open window, you are putting yourself into a disadvantaged and vulnerable position.
  • Inspect the item(s) you intend to buy. Try it out and see if meets your needs. The reversal of this is to inspect the money. COUNT IT OUT. There are many scammers who have refined the art of short-changing and passing fake bills.
  • Overall, conduct your research into the other party, record your potential evidence, and negotiate the deal under your terms. If the other party puts up resistance making you feel unsafe, follow your gut, and pass on the deal.


We absolutely love these tips from Sergeant Nick! Do you have any additional tips on staying safer? Share any you may have below and make sure to let us know what your favorite tip was above!

Level 9

All good tips. I’m always out of my truck. Always in the day time. Always in a public place with lots of people. If everyone follows the simple rules they will probably never have to worry. Always be on your guard. Doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly. Just pay attention to what’s going on around you. Common sense stuff. Great post.

Community Helper

Great follow-up @Mj_206!

Would have to say by far... the "Safe Trade Spots" are my favorite safety feature!

Use them every meet-up too!

So simple to tap on location map and have directions!



I think I am being hacked by joe because joe was unhappy with a transaction. How can I stop this?


Block their profile. A good feature offer up has to offer.  It should work unless you've exchanged other info off the app. Good luck...


I was mailed a fraudulent check. The guy said he would send his movers in couple days to pick up item. When I got the check in a FedEx envelope the check was for 1400.00. my item was posted for 200. He wanted me to give the remaining balance to his movers... Un hello ... Stupid. Wow really. Then proceed to call n threatened me. Asking where his check or his money we're. 

Level 9

@JillAllison  Tell him his check is at the police department and he is welcome to pick it up anytime. Call you? Shouldn’t of gave out your number. Stay only in the app. No need to give out your number. In the rules OfferUp says you should not give out your number. 

Level 9

Now back on topic. Safety Tips from Detective Sergeant Nick Ferrara of Gainesville, FL Pt. 2. Good. Info.


I was wondering the reason for getting out of your vehicle  as opposed to checking out how u feel talking from the window at first to assess the other party and get a VIBE 1ST... IF THEY SEEM STRANGE AND " NOT TO PAR" ...AT LEAST U COULD DRIVE AWAY... AS A WOMAN. JUST IN CASE U DID NOT HAVE A RIDING PARTNER WITH YOU THAT PARTICULAR DAY...???   THANKS FOR YOUR ADVICE ON THIS..... Anniemay7


Use a dash cam for meets.


So one should be suspicious if bills are identical? Cop or comedian?

Level 9

Anniemay . You have a point. For me, I like getting out of my truck. Why? Because if the guy runs then I’m in a position to stop that. For others, may not be a thing they want to do. I do think it’s a great idea to always bring someone with you or pick a time that you can bring someone with you. Never at night. I will not meet people at night. I will never meet at my house. I want to look at what I’m buying. I want to count the money. I will never hand my things into a car that can drive away. I lower my tailgate and they can inspect it there. If you feel comfortable in your car then that’s what you should do. But always try to bring someone with you. It’s just a really smart thing.

Level 9

@Thoughtuknew1  You may want to contact support if you think your account has been hacked. Change your password too.

New Member

Just last week some1 have me a counterfeit cashiers check

Community Member

I made the mistake of sending $200 through a cash app. Of course I never received the merchandise, and now the profile is deactivated.

Level 9

Never go outside the app @tstopay71 . Sorry that happened to you. @Wedwards6537  No checks of any kind. Stay in the app. Scammers will try again and again. Sorry guys.


We have one of those spots at our local police department! Pretty awesome! Thank you sir for all your advice and your service! Stay safe

Level 9

I wish all police departments had spots like that. Most police departments are under budget. But you can still meet in there parking lot. 


I have seen (and reported) a few ALCOHOL sale and the are not been deleted? Is that ok here?