NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Law enforcement in several North Texas cities are now working together to better educate the public on internet robbery schemes, and hopefully keep them safer. At a joint news conference on Thursday representatives from the Arlington, Fort Worth and Grand Prairie Police Departments had a warning for anyone putting items up for sale online. Police said there has definitely been an increase in internet transaction-related robberies in the Metroplex.

Most of the crimes have happened during the face-to-face meeting of buyers and sellers.

Fort Worth Police Detective Brian Raynsford said that so far this year there have been 10 such robberies. “Within the last two weeks we’ve had three offenses directly related to internet buying and selling, one of which resulted in a victim being hospitalized when he was run down by the suspects.”

That victim is Jose Moreno, 41. Moreno was selling his iPhone 5. He thought he’d picked a safe area to meet the potential buyer — a busy strip mall just south of Texas Christian University. But while looking at the phone in the driver’s seat of his car, the “buyer” suddenly decided to flee with the goods.

“The driver acted like he was looking at it and trying to take out the SIM card,” said Moreno. “But then he dropped it in his lap and threw it in reverse right away. He hit it in full throttle in reverse.”

Moreno said he had just enough time to snatch his phone away from the driver and run. But he couldn’t outrun the crook’s car.

“They went full throttle forward and they hit me in the back right here,” said Moreno, pointing to a deeply bruised area above his right hip. “And when they hit right here I went forward into another car face-first and then fell on the ground.”

Moreno has stitches in his scalp and chin, a gash on his leg and bruises all over his body.

There have also been two sexual assaults and one homicide within those Fort Worth internet-related crimes.

During the Thursday press conference the leaders in the different police departments said they came together to make a public statement to criminals, letting them know they are all working together to combat the problem.

All of the police department officials agreed that most of their internet related bodily harm crimes involve the sale of electronics.

Sergeant Donald Fulbright, with the Fort Worth police robbery unit, had some advice for anyone conducting a transaction online. “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is too good to be true. Avoid deals that seem to defy logic. If someone is willing to sell you a Tablet, or an iPhone, or an iPad for $20 or $50 and it sounds too good to be true, there’s a reason for that.”

Police have also found that non-technology related items are becoming a popular target for thieves. According to Sgt. Fulbright there’s also now a trend in the robbery of footwear. “High-end tennis shoes, athletic tennis shoes… there are total websites that are devoted to the buying and selling of just tennis shoes and sneakers.”

Authorities admit there are some buying and selling warnings and suggestions that seem obvious, like not putting your personal information in an ad and not listing your home address, but they warn individuals should also be careful when doing something like posting a photo. Police remind that with technology criminals can use a picture to see other valuable items a person may own or even figure out exactly where they live.

In addition to setting up meetings during daylight hours, police suggest that any transactions happen in a very public area. “Some places that we suggest are; use a local police department, main station lobby, or also use fire departments – you can meet in their parking lot,” Sgt. Fulbright said.

Police say internet-related robberies usually happen very fast and with so many cities in North Texas the suspects almost seem to disappear. “They’re on the highways at 80 miles an hour, out of the cities, before we ever get the call,” Detective Raynsford said.

Here are some tips that the Arlington, Fort Worth and Grand Prairie police departments suggest internet buyers and sellers do to protect themselves:

Safety/Prevention Tips

  • There is safety in numbers.
  • Always take someone with you to conduct your transaction.
  • If something feels off, stop the contact.
  • Make sure family members/friends know the time and place of any transaction you set up.
  • Research the seller/buyer if you are able.  Check other websites to determine if the buyer/seller has had any reported problems.
  • Only use websites that have been approved by the Better Business Bureau or some other similar certification. This can be determined by a simple Google search on the Internet.

Red Flags/Cautionary Steps:

  • Be sure and research products to determine their true worth.
  • Knowledge is power and prevents you from being misled.
  • Be wary of someone who insists on secluded locations or areas out of view of the public.
  • Avoid sellers that contact you without any invitation from you.
  • Reputable sellers won’t solicit your business without permission.
  • Be wary of out of town buyers.

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