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.

 

blur-cash-close-up-545065.jpg

 

- 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 https://www.secretservice.gov/data/KnowYourMoney.pdf  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 www.safetradespots.com.  
  • 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!

55 Comments
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!

 

Neighbor

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

Captain

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...

Neighbor

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.

Neighbor

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

Captain

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.

Neighbor

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. 

Level 2

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

Level 9

No you cannot sell Alcohol 🍺 on OfferUp.

Dzz
Community Member

I have had inter action with someone who did not have a profile picture or list of town and wanted me to send pictures of high value item I replied they have to go on OfferUp I don't send pictures and also reported them and never heard from them again.

Delores

Level 2

I recently bought a mattress which i had delivered to the house since i had no way to transport it... paid $100 cash. It was wrapped in plastic and turned out to not be the mattress in the picture nor did it fit the description. Seller profile  was deleted right away. I see other posts of barely used guestroom mattresses offering delivery and all I can say is beware. I now have an old, yellowed worn out mattress I paid $100 for and now have no money to buy another one. 

Level 3

Has anyone ever paid a seller for an item through PayPal - and actually had a smooth transaction?  I.e. you received the item, in the shape it was described, no problems?  Or is everyone's story the same when/if they have used PayPal on OfferUp.  Again I know OfferUp is against this, and specfically says not too.  Just curious...

Captain

Has anybody ever bought something paid for shipping then go to post office to pick up and they say you owe more on the shipping

 

Level 3

Buttfuzzp Never heard of post office asking to pay anyone as all shipping leable have being prepaid by you throught the app, so should be no additinal charges to you at all

Level 3

repeted seller you worked with, height rating, with profile at least 6 month old, this is minimum you should keep in mind

Captain

What can you do if someone sold to you a non working item when told it was in working condition?

Community Helper

Welcome @Nancy34!

Certainly a disappointment...

Was this a Shipping or Meet-up transaction?

 

Captain

I met up at my place i bought a washer n dryer from this man  who introduced himself as an appliance repair tech which does that for a living fix n repairs washer dryer air conditioner etc. Thats  the reason i trusted him n didn't try out the washer  before he left ..i thought this man is not going to sale me something that s not working .but i got ripped off he sold me trash cuz its not fixable just trash .

Community Helper

@Nancy34 

Since OU doesn't facilitate meet-ups, Buyer Protection would not apply. =/

Level 3

 

JillAllison this is a very old scam there are multiple blogs about it online too, tell him exactly you send his check to the police and he is welcome to pick it up anytime.
Level 3

Nancy34 report the sale as frad, since it is cash transaction you can't do much beside posting on facebook, for big purchases like that I would take licence , report to offer up for support,  but I am sure he already diactivate account not sure is offer up can do anything else beside diactivate account unless it is multiple report and it make sence to report it to police.  Also for everyone who just purchase it please check the account history and profile, doens't make any sence to make big purchace from acount that exist only a month  

Level 9

@Pinksun some great advice,  it seems to not be your first rodeo. I agree with everything you said except, not everyone with a young account can't be trusted.I myself have only been selling since mid January! I haven't burned anybody and I sell some high dollar items. Either way you gave some great advice. So keep up the good work. And thanks for shareing your knowledge with the community!

Neighbor

Never looked at it that way! I actually always/usually stay in my car when meeting with someone. I guess I figured so if they try something funky... I could just throw it in drive and haul arse. But I completely see where he's saying it makes u vulnerable. He just changed my entire routine! Thanks great article!!

New Member

What do you do when someone threatens to **bleep** you? In a message? Says he has a bullet for me. I’m done. Because I called him out on selling stolen goods.

Level 9

@Cradlethebomb   You need to report that right away. Someone threatening your life is a crime. Report it to OfferUp and the police. If you can print out what they sent you, that would be a good thing. 

Level 9

@Cradlethebomb my good friend @Jones68 is absolutely right don't waist any time in reporting this person!

Level 9

Really shouldn’t waste anytime with this one. 

Level 1

I just had my first and last experience ( I hope) 

He ask to buy and hold something for him. He mail the check ,then said,he's secretary mis calculated the amount and to please pay the movers (?). 

My reply was, I'm sorry , this is your secretary error ,as soon as I get your check I will forward it to you,. Thank you

He's reply don't f#&@ this up. Just cash the check , I promise my cousin that table. 

I was🙊😮😭!?!? 

I just said, I'm sorry , good bye. And blocked him. But he already has my address 😱😰

Level 1

I just had my first and last experience ( I hope) 

He ask to buy and hold something for him. He mail the check ,then said,he's secretary mis calculated the amount and to please pay the movers (?). 

My reply was, I'm sorry , this is your secretary error p,as soon as I get your check I will forward it to you,. Thank you

He's reply don't f#&@ this up. Just cash the check , I promise my cousin that table. 

I was🙊😮😭!?!? 

I just said, I'm sorry , good bye. And blocked him. But he already has my address 😱😰

Level 9

@Mima19   You should just say that when I get check, I’ll drop it off at police station and you can get it from there. Then block. Report to OfferUp also. If they can’t stay within the OfferUp app then don’t do business with them. Stay in the app.

Captain

@Mima19 Gliving out a home address can prove a bad decision. Saving the envelope, which 

may have a return address, might be useful. I'd suggest getting screenshots of any messages. OU will delete them from your conversations.

I had a buyer purchase a washing machine I know it was working just did a load before he came and then later said it didn’t work so he wants a refund help me 

Level 1

Is all so risky , he already has my address, I have kids , I feel so stupid now🤦. I removed all my stuff from offer up. Even though I really need the income, I lost my job . I use to work at St Joseph hospital registration, so I am very communitive and friendly by nature. But I feel like this time I just Rush in to fast before thinking about it or asking my husband what he thought about this situation. If I knew what he knew😔

Community Helper

@Helloheyyou57

You are under no obligation to refund the buyer. It is a personal choice, since it was an in-person meet-up. GLTU! Ciao´ for now...

Level 2

Just wanted to touch base and inform those of you in and around  North West San Antinio, that there are in fact people handing out in counterfeit ones, fives, tens, and of course the usually larger bills. I know because tge guy at 2 stores here in tge neighborhood told me about it after I had gotten one and I saw it was a fake.  So, watch carefully for tge smaller denominations.  They are pretty darn good. 

Level 1

I recently fell for the check scam. The "buyer" offered to pay me asking price for a set of rims I was selling. They offered to give me $50 over asking price to "hold the item" They did once the check cleared and I had cash in hand, they'd send a mover to pick up the product. They asked for my name to put on the check, mailing address, and got my phone number via text messages exchanged. I ignored my gut and gave them my name and address for the check. I figured they couldn't do me any harm since I'd have cash in hand before item exchange. Now im not so sure. Can someone enlighten me as to what kind of personal damage one could do with name, address, and phone # only? Thank you

Level 1

I don't have a car so I usually use google maps and the satilite feature to scout good locations within walking distence from my house. 

Google maps can help you identify structures retated to the location of the meeting so you can easily find the buyer. 

My favorite tip is to always CHECK. Because its as matter a fact as the ground and as useful as food.😊🖒

Neighbor

@Jones68  hey was it a joe that told y9u to lower the price and shipping ? Cuz this joe asked me if I could and told me he was having issue trying to purchase my item and I've never had issues with selling on OfferUp before 

Level 9

@Sell2sale   Sorry. Wasn’t me.

New Member

I just dealt with a situation where a buyer pretending to be moving here from out of town and specifically said that they would be on national guard base ( probably to sound more legit) . Said he and his wife loved the item I was selling. Said he would email me a certified check for 400 dollars over the amount I asked in order to pay for the movers ( that’s where I should have said “ no thanks”) 

kept in contact with me to see if check cleared in my account and then wanted me to coordinate with movers ( send them the moving expense ) that’s the catch ... the “ movers” get money and then the original buyer cancels the certified check. Therefore I end up losing 400 dollars of my own money. I caught this in time and canceled the whole deal. Tip for sellers: cash only at the time of pick up . 

New Member

I received a message from a buyer. she offers to buy your items and then sends out a fake check. Dont fall for it .