EDMONTON - Carrying the $3,200 he needed to buy a vehicle he had spotted on Kijiji, a 23-year-old Edmonton man was robbed by the would-be sellers who fled in his car.
It wasn’t the first such meeting gone wrong this week, prompting police to urge caution when arranging transactions through online sites such as Kijiji, eBay and Craigslist.
The robbery happened about 9 p.m. near 32nd Street and 16A Avenue, where the man and his friend arrived to possibly buy a vehicle, Edmonton police said. Three men stole the cash at knifepoint, escaping in the man’s 1995 Subaru WRX, which they ditched a couple of blocks away.
Police described the three robbers as East Indian, in their 20s, and wearing black hoodies. One was wearing an Angry Birds T-shirt. They were seen leaving in a green sedan with tinted windows.
Earlier this week, two Edmonton men were arrested Monday for kidnapping a man trying to sell his Mercedes online on Kijiji. The seller met with two prospective customers at a west Edmonton parking lot. The duo then threatened to kill him, forced him into the car and then drove off to Calgary.
The seller eventually managed to escape his car and call Calgary police. Police using a spike belt stopped the car in Red Deer.
A spokesman for Kijiji refused to comment on the incidents because it they were being investigated by police. The company’s website includes numerous suggestions to keep transactions safe: meet face-to-face in public places like coffee shops, watch out for phishing schemes and never agree to online transactions, even if it’s through seemingly legitimate third-party payment services such as PayPal or Canada Post.
“We have found that one of the best ways to address this problem is to ensure that all transactions take place locally, in person and with cash,” a statement on the website says. “Use common sense. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
The company also advises doing homework like checking VINs and odometers to ensure a vehicle is as advertised. Kijiji also recommends using a third-party company CarProof to verify the vehicle’s history.
Based on stories from Journal readers, many Edmontonians have their own cautionary tales to tell.
Earlier this month, one couple sent a $3,000 money order to buy a truck after the seller said she couldn’t meet in person because her daughter was sick. They realized they’d been had the next day when they got another message asking for $1,400 more to ship the vehicle.
Another man thought he had a buyer for his $3,000 diamond, but when he suggested they complete the deal in front of a police station, his customer didn’t show. Greg Markey even had a buyer threaten to sue him when he wouldn’t ship furniture without payment up front.
And when Orissa Sabourin recently contacted someone while looking for a pet sitter, she was barraged by demands for her home address so the sitter could drive by the house.
“He totally started casing me out, to see what size of television we have, if there was a garage that he could park his vehicle in,” Sabourin said. “Obviously I immediately said ‘thank you so much for your time, we actually ended up finding someone else,’ and he just flipped out.”
Sabourin said the man sent dozens of threatening and bizarre texts. And while she’ll still use Kijiji to buy and sell goods and to post wanted ads for her small business, she thinks the service has become “a bit more shark infested” in recent years.
Although the typical scammers are after money, the potential perils of online vehicle sales made national headlines in early May. Hamilton, Ont., man Tim Bosma, 32, was killed after he advertised his 2007 Dodge Ram for sale online, then accompanied two men on a test drive. His burned remains were later found in the Waterloo region, near Kitchener.
Police found Bosma’s cellphone in Brantford, which led them to Dellen Millard, a 27-year-old man charged with first-degree-murder in the case. The stolen truck was later found in a trailer in Millard’s driveway north of Toronto, and Bosma’s remains found on a property owned by Millard.
Kijiji later issued a statement saying that while Bosma advertised the truck on Kijiji, no personal information was posted and his ad received no replies.
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