IMPD PSA to promote safe meet-up spots for online transactions

IMPD is recording a PSA showing off safe meet-up spots for e-commerce transactions.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - This holiday season, local police officers are trying to head off a crime trend they see this time of year. The number of online sales that end in robbery tend to go up during the holiday shopping season.

Officers hope to reach people through a new public service announcement about e-commerce transactions. The goal is to teach people how to keep from becoming a victim. They hope to encourage consumers to do business at a safe location. The PSA will direct sellers and buyers to IMPD's various district headquarters.

Michael Hammer now advises people about doing business online.

"Never meet alone, always have someone with you," said Michael Hammer. His advice comes with some real-life experiences he doesn't want to see happen to anyone else.

Now, Hammer doesn't take any chances when it comes to selling or buying online after a dangerous 2015 Craigslist transaction. His teenage daughter set up the sale of an Xbox to someone she met on the classifieds website. The buyer appeared legit and very interested in buying the item for cash.

Hammer only learned about the transaction after talking to his daughter the day of the sale. He insisted that he be present during the sale, so they waited for the buyer outside their Indianapolis home. The buyer gave them the description of a van he would be in and pulled up to their house.

"There were several people in the van, at least four deep, and they jumped out with pistols, made us lay down, they took our wallets, took the system and threatened to shoot us if we got up and they left," Hammer said.

Hammer explained that they cooperated with the robbers to keep from getting hurt. Still, one of them fired several shots into a parked car to let them know that the threats were real. Fortunately, no one got hurt in the robbery.

Now, to keep online sales like Michael's from turning into robberies, Metro Police is putting together a public safety announcement as soon as possible. IMPD wants people to use their district headquarters for a meet-up spot. The locations all have cameras, lighting and visible officers in most cases at each location during regular business hours. Citizens are even encouraged to make their exchanges inside the district offices if possible.

The PSA features two strangers meeting outside their Southeast District office for an internet transaction. Officer Michael Hewitt is also in the PSA, encouraging people to use the safe spots. IMPD's Southeast District will eventually have a sign posted marking the meet-up spot.

Police also want consumers to know about red flags when it comes to meeting with people to finalize online transactions.

"That's one thing that we are stressing in the video is that you have an individual that has agreed to meet you somewhere, but not at an e-commerce zone, that should serve as a red flag," said IMPD Ofc. Aaron Hamer.

Metro police plans to flood social media with their new PSA at a time of year the number of internet transactions go up along with the number of online sales-related robberies.

"What we are trying to do now is get ahead of the holiday season so that we can encourage individuals to have safe interactions or transactions," Hamer said.

Even with a safe spot to do business, police recommend that you know as much as possible with the person you're doing business with before you show up for the sale.

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