ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando police Detective Rene Ingoglia has a pile of unsolved cases on his desk, all stemming from e-commerce deals gone bad, some with the threat of violence.
"I can tell you right now on my computer screen I have 10 or 15 of these cellphone snatchings over the last couple months. Me, personally, and that's just one detective," Ingoglia said.
Several days ago, someone who listed a cell phone online was robbed when he tried to sell it at a restaurant across the street from Orlando Police headquarters in downtown Orlando.
"This weekend we had two," Ingoglia said. "We've had a few at gunpoint where people are taking the phone out and next thing you know you get a gun stuck in your face."
Often e-commerce robberies involve cellphones because buyers want them and sellers want to get rid of them and they involve hundreds of dollars in cash. But News 6 has reported on e-commerce deals where buyers were scammed by purchasing fake Wrestlemania or Disney tickets and even were paid in counterfeit cash.
Ingoglia blames the crime increase on the growing number of options to list merchandise for sale. Craigslist, OfferUp, LetGo and Facebook Marketplace are among the most popular.
"It's picked up more recently because the sites are more prevalent, the different sites," Ingoglia said. "We've probably had between the robbery unit and the property unit we've probably two dozen of these in the last couple of months. So they're coming more and more, and it's easy pickings for bad guys."
Last week, a couple were robbed trying to buy an iPhone by meeting a seller at a bus stop in an Orlando neighborhood. The thief kept the phone and snatched their $260 in cash and ran, according to a police report.
Several weeks ago, a woman met a man in front of an Orlando school for disabled children to sell her iPhone. He ran off with her phone when she showed it to him.
But police say every single e-commerce crime is preventable -- if buyers and sellers would use the e-commerce safe zones that police departments and sheriff's offices have created in front of their buildings.
"It's frustrating, very frustrating," Ingoglia said, pointing to the two empty designated e-commerce parking spots in front of the new Orlando Police Department headquarters. "They're not using them and how we know that is the robberies and thefts coming in, they keep coming in in large numbers."
Orlando police's e-commerce parking spots are flanked by four cameras covering every angle of the parking lot.
Several law enforcement agencies have created safe zones, click here to see a list.
But Ingoglia said even if there isn't a designated safe zone near you, you should still meet a buyer or seller at a police station where you can do the deal inside the lobby.
"If someone doesn't want to come here, big red flag, that's obviously not the person you want to make a transaction with," Ingoglia said. "If you tell someone you want to do the transaction at an e-commerce site and they say they don't want to meet there, that's a red flag."
"If they want you to go to a house or neighborhood, that's a red flag right away," Ingoglia warned. "Don't even feel safe to go to a public area, because they'll say, 'Let's go to a shopping center.' You'll get robbed even there."
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