Safest places to meet online buyers, sellers in the Tampa Bay area

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — The Polk County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the murder of a man involved in an online sale.

Sunday night, Jeffrey Morrow, Jr., 21, went with his friend to sell an item that had been advertised online. The pair met the buyer in the parking lot of the Family Dollar, 1135 S. Combee Rd., Lakeland. The buyer took off with the item without paying.

Morrow and his friend chased the man, who started shooting. Morrow was killed.

The online site involved in this case has not been revealed by the Sheriff’s Office. However, CraigsList reports 80 million ads on its site each month. And Facebook groups for buying and selling are incredibly popular. These safety rules apply to both.

  • Never reveal and personal information, including a home address. That means you should never meet at your home. If you’re selling furniture, it might be worth it to charge a little more for delivery.
  • If you’re using a Facebook sales group, deal only with people you know, or are acquaintances of those you know.
  • Don’t use your personal email. Set up an email account for your sales transactions.
  • Meeting in a public place is important, but add an extra layer of protection. Police departments are open 24-7. Consider meeting in the parking lot.
  • Tell someone what you’re doing, and have a trusted friend or family member accompany you.
  • Keep your cell phone in hand during the entire transaction.
  • Don’t pay in cash. Use a cashier’s check instead. For high-priced transactions, meet at a bank.

Meeting in a public place is important, but add an extra layer of protection. Police departments are open 24-7. Consider meeting in the parking lot. Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies have created safe spaces for people to conduct online transactions. The spaces are often located in a well-lit parking lot of a police agency with surveillance monitoring. “Safe Place” areas are located in the following communities:

Hillsborough County

  • HCSO Patrol District parking lot at 14102 N. 20th St.
  • HCSO Patrol District parking lot at 2310 N. Falkenburg Rd.
  • HCSO Patrol District parking lot at 7202 Gunn Highway
  • HCSO Patrol District parking lot at 508 33rd. St.

Manatee County

  • MCSO parking lot at 600 301 Blvd W., in Bradenton.

Pinellas County

There is no officially designated space, however residents can use the Sheriff’s Office lobby to conduct transactions. The PSCO is located at 10750 Ulmerton Rd. in Largo. A North District Office is located at 737 Louden Ave. in Dunedin.’

Polk County

There is no officially designated space, however residents can go inside county buildings during regular business hours to conduct transactions. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is located at 1891 Jim Keene Blvd., in Winter Haven.

Sarasota County

There is no officially designated space, however residents can go inside county buildings during regular business hours to conduct transactions.

Pasco County

Dade City Police have an exchange zone at the police department off Pasco Avenue. There are two parking spaces denoted with signs for the public’s use. Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office recommends that residents use the lobby or other county buildings during regular business hours to conduct transactions.

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