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The very real dangers of buy, swap, sell groups.

Just another reminder to be careful online. 

Buy swap and sell sites are used by so many of us but we need to be aware of passing on our personal details.

Handing out your address to a stranger can be very dangerous.

Buy, swap and sell sites are everywhere, almost every community has one. They are a great place for unloading your unwanted stuff, making a bit of extra cash or picking up a bargain. They also promote a nice sense of community. But an experience I had over the weekend has shown once again that we should be extra careful when it comes to dealing with strangers on the internet.

Here’s what happened.

I’ve been using my local buy, swap, sell site for years. It’s only ever been for small items and usually I go with the honesty system of leaving something on my front doorstep with the request that buyers slip the money under the door. I’ve never had an issue. Then again, I’ve only ever been selling small items.

Over the weekend though I listed a phone for sale. It was an iPhone in good condition but I had recently upgraded so saw the sale as a means to add to our holiday fund.

I had a lot of enquires but one stood out. I had listed the phone for $500. Almost instantly I got a message offering $600 with an offer to pick up immediately.

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I clicked on to the man's profile and for some reason it just didn't feel right. I know that sounds strange but there were no images of his face and something just didn't sit well.

I replied saying that I wouldn't be home for a while and that he could perhaps come another time. I didn't hear back.

Within a day I received another message, this time asking me for my phone number so that he could arrange the sale.

It was strange given that others had since offered less for the phone and I had commented indicating that I would accept an offer.

Stupidly though I gave my number to him (I figured he must not have a reliable phone seeing as he wanted to buy one). He called me instantly.

The voice on the phone was shakey. He offered to drop off a partial payment now and the rest later in the week. Obviously I declined.

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He then asked when I would be home and what my address was. None of the questions he asked were about the phone itself; condition, age, wear and tear.  I declined to give him my information.

He grew more insistent and pretended to be joking around with me. He then asked how many children I have. That's when it got weird.

"I had a quick look at your profile. Is it just one child?" I didn't really know what to say. I diverted the conversation back to the phone. "Do you want it, or not?" I asked.

"I think I can come this week but maybe I could just come around and see it first, say hi. I can come within the hour".

It was only when I mentioned that my husband was home that he ended the conversation. He promised to call me back within the hour but I never heard from him again.

Okay, so this guy didn't do anything wrong but something about him made me think that this was more than just a conversation about a phone. I mean, who doesn't know what they have offered to pay, without even having the money to do so?

I contacted the police just to let them know. His interest in me and my children was creepy and it wasn't until I mentioned it to a group of friends that I found out I wasn't the only one to have experienced an eerie situation like this.

One friend said that she will never use a buy swap sell site after she saw someone peering in her windows while supposedly collecting something from her house. Her car was in her driveway and she had said that she wouldn't be home so would leave the items on the porch (which wasn't true, she just didn't want to wake sleeping babies).

Another friend said that she had experienced theft after people failed to pay for items and just walked off with them.

For me though, it was a wake up call.

We freely give our personal details to people on these sites, including our address and often, hours that we will be home. It's information which places us in vulnerable positions and my experience over the weekend has highlighted that to me.

I don't know why this man was keen to know about me or my children but what I do know is that my instincts kicked in and told me something wasn't right.

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