Consumer Scams

Keeping Internet Deals Safe

Internet transactions have become more prevalent every year.  People use sites like Craigslist, Facebook, LetGo, OfferUp and many others to buy and sell everything from cars to iPhones and concert tickets.  The days of putting a classified ad in the newspaper to sell used items is gone.  Today, deals are made over the internet.    Yet, these internet deals can be risky.

Everyone has heard the stories of internet deals gone horribly wrong.  An innocent person answers a car ad on Craigslist, Facebook, or some other internet site, hoping to find a great car at a low price. He drives to a parking lot to meet the seller.  When he arrives, the buyer is robbed and killed. That is exactly what happened to a Georgia couple a few years back.  They answered an ad on Craigslist to buy a vintage car.  When they reached the exchange site, they were shot to death and robbed.  There are scores of examples.  People have been swindled, robbed, beaten and even killed during internet purchases.  According to the Safe Zone website, there were at least 45 murders connected to Craigslist deals between 2009 and 2014.

So, what is the answer?  A few years’ back, websites urged people to conduct their transactions in public places like grocery store parking lots, but even that precaution is not enough.  Several people have been robbed during transactions in Walmart parking lots.  Recognizing that more needs to be done to keep people safe, many police departments around the country have begun to establish safe zones for internet deals.  Whether they are called safe deal zones, safe transaction zones or safe exchange zones, these safe zones are protected areas where crimes are unlikely to occur. 

The movement began in 2014, in Boca Raton, Florida, when the local police department opened its lobby as a safe place for internet deal exchanges.  It was genius!  What bad guy is going to agree to meet you in a police station with cameras and police all around?  Since then, the idea has spread around the country.  Arizona has been slow to adopt safe exchange zones, but there are a few places where safe zones have been established. In 2015, ASU started a safe exchange zone for ASU students, faculty and employees to make their internet deals.  ASU sees more than 2500 Craigslist posts a week that are related to the University.  People sell bicycles, football tickets, phones, furniture and almost everything else you can think of.  The ASU Police Department has set up an “online exchange zone” to keep these transactions safe.  People with an ASU ID can handle their online purchases in a room to the right of the police station lobby at 325 E. Apache Boulevard, in Tempe.

Other Arizona safe trade zones include Flagstaff where people can trade at the Coconino Sheriff’s Department and the Flagstaff Police Department.  Mesa, Williams and Wilcox also offer safe trade zones at their police departments.  News articles in 2015, stated that Tempe was considering establishing a safe trade zone, but nothing on the City’s website or the Tempe Police Department’s website mention the subject.  My research found no information on safe exchange zones set up by the cities of Phoenix or Tucson. If they exist, they are a well-kept secret.

There is a website,, that covers the subject.  The website offers guidelines on making internet transactions safe.  It also offers logos to insert in your internet ad.  The logo informs all prospective buyers that transactions will only be made in a safe deal zone.  The website allows you to search for safe deal zones in your area.  It has no safe deal zones listed for Arizona.

Even if no safe exchange zone is available to help you with your transaction, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

  • Do deals only during the daylight hours;
  • Pick a spot that is well lit, preferably with video surveillance;
  • If no police station is available, meet in the lobby of a courthouse or city office building;
  • Take a friend with you.  It is never a good idea to meet a stranger alone;
  • Never agree to meet at your house or at the seller’s house.

Craigslist and other internet sites can help you find great deals, but no deal is worth your life or your health.  Be cautious and be safe.


This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.