Baritone player Armando Velez, a senior majoring in business management, is in the market for a new horn. But as a college student on a strict budget, buying a brand new instrument isn’t an option. So he’s been scouring community resale websites like Craigslist.org in search of a less expensive used instrument—albeit apprehensively.
Craigslist is an online forum where people post local ads for goods and services, ranging anywhere from used cars to furniture, lawn-mowing services and even kittens. Users arrange meetings with sellers using their personal email or phone, and transactions often take place at the seller’s home.
Velez’s hesitation to buy from Craigslist stems from a plethora of “scary stories” that he’s heard about transactions made using Craigslist listings, including friends’ testimonials claiming to have been scammed by sellers and the news story-turned-movie about Philip Markoff, the infamous “Craigslist killer.”
To add to his reluctance, Velez lives on campus, and his parents live in Orlando. So he doesn’t have an adult he trusts nearby to accompany him to meetings with sellers he finds online to ensure he’s safe and isn’t being scammed.
“I would only go if I have a friend with me,” he said. “If I have to go by myself, I’m not comfortable.”
Luckily for Velez, the FIU Police Department now offers appointments to arrange meetings with sellers right at the FIU station, with an officer overseeing the transaction to prevent fraud and keep all parties involved safe—a useful service considering the FBI ranked Florida second in the nation for most reports of Internet-related crime in 2014.
The service is available to all students and employees. All a buyer needs to do is arrange to meet the seller in the lobby of the FIU station and then call the station to notify an officer on staff. As the police station is always open, meetings can be set for any time, day or evening.
FIU Police Department Assistant Chief Alphonse Ianniello said the new service was prompted by a student’s complaint back in March that he arranged to meet someone who claimed to be selling a PlayStation 4 in the University Park Apartments parking lot, and the person drove off with his money.
“It’s about crime prevention,” Ianniello said. “Kids can buy or sell with a meeting place that’s guaranteed to be safe.”
The fact that Velez can meet with sellers at the FIU Police station is a relief for his mother Blanca.
“It’ll give parents and students peace of mind,” she said. “A lot of tragedies have happened to people who post ads on Craigslist and this will definitely make it safer.”
The FIU Police Department offers these tips for anyone making purchases through Craigslist:
- Don’t go alone.
- Do not meet in a secluded area; insist to meet in a public place, such as the FIU Police Department.
- Do not invite strangers into your home or go to theirs.
- Be cautious when buying/selling high-value items.
- Take your cell phone with you.
- Perform the transaction during daylight hours or anytime at the FIU Police station.
The FIU Police station is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week at both the Modesto Maidique and Biscayne Bay campuses. For more information or to schedule a supervised Craigslist transaction, call 305-348-2626.