Online users can fall prey to postings

The quest to make money by selling unwanted items online may bring more than anticipated.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department recently issued a crime alert notice advising residents about criminal activity linked to online exchanges where people buy and sell items locally or browse to find a job. Henderson Police Department officials have seen similar activity.

"We had a recent case in December. We had a call from someone who had been the victim of a burglary in November," Henderson Police Department spokesman Keith Paul said. "He had a number of items stolen, musical items — guitars, guitar cases, drums, foot pedals, things like that . And there were several items that had a very unique engraving on it so he could easily spot that it was his. He saw them (his items) on craigslist and he did the absolute right thing: He called the police."

Henderson police officers called the number and set up a meeting to buy the musical equipment. They found all the stolen items, and the sellers were arrested and charged with possession of stolen property.

Henderson police do not track online crimes as a separate category, so it had no statistics to report. But when people’s homes have been burglarized, police encourage the victims to check online buy-and-sell sites to see if their stolen items are being sold there.

"When you are meeting people that you’ve never met before, we would encourage you to meet in a public place," Paul said. "The place where I tell people to meet? The police substation. Some one who is up to no good will, obviously, not want to go there."

A craigslist user who identified herself as Lynn M. was selling various items online as she was moving from Summerlin to Virginia.

She offered a bed, a dining table set, kids’ clothes and had a front-loading gas dryer for sale online, even though she said that she did not feel totally comfortable having people come to her home.

"Generally, what I’ll do is I’ll send them my address like an hour before they’re coming," she said. "I don’t want to give it to them (a day before) because I don’t want them to have my address … it just gives me more of a sense of control."

Officer Chrissie Coon, spokeswoman for the North Las Vegas Police Department, said so far this year, there has been a decline in robberies of this type, as there had been none reported. She could not give figures for other years as the department does not separate robberies by type.

Coon said most online selling involves high-dollar electronic items such as iPods, lap tops and cell phones.

Thieves can pose as either a buyer or a seller. In either case, the result is an innocent person being robbed.

The economy plays a role.

"You see more people wanting to make some extra money that are trying to get rid of some items but go on web sites that are just anonymous web sites that anybody can go on," she said. "It’s really an unsafe practice. They are far better working with types like eBay where there’s kind of a check and balance system."

Residents are encouraged to mark TV sets and other valuable items in their homes with an engraving tool to easily identify them in case of a burglary.

"Nobody does this but they really should — get all the series numbers, all the model numbers, and keep them in a safe spot," Paul said. "If they’re pawned, we can get them back for you."

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 387-2949.

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