Security & Fraud

OfferUp Is Pushing Trust, But Will Users Buy In Light Of Incidents?

OfferUp: the mobile app that connects local buyers and sellers, helping regular people get rid of their extra belongings. It’s also the mobile app that, unfortunately, can lead would-be buyers straight into criminals’ traps, where these tricksters demand money for products they are not actually selling, and may harm or threaten to harm buyers to get them.

Similar to Facebook Marketplace, letgo and Craigslist, OfferUp can be a great way for sellers to clean house and for buyers to get good deals locally rather than paying full-price for new furniture, kitchenware, mattresses, décor, instruments, cell phones, cars and other expensive items.

It taps into the modern consumer’s desire to practice sustainability by doing business locally, recycling and upcycling rather than trashing items with which they’re ready to part, and not buying every item brand new.

However, it’s clear that not everyone using the platform has such noble intentions.

Last week, an Ohio man was shot by the man who was supposedly going to sell him a PlayStation 4 Pro video game system for $180. The man was injured, not killed, but he never did get his PlayStation, and he would’ve had a hard time playing it if he had since the bullet hit his hand.

A local news source reported that the man and his girlfriend drove to the seller’s home in Garfield Heights, where the robber walked him down the driveway under the pretense of showing him the gaming system. Instead, the seller pulled a gun on the hapless buyer and demanded he pay up.

The man forked over $20 and explained that the rest of the money was in his car. Once the robber had walked him back to the vehicle, the man and his girlfriend were able to get away, but not before the robber shot him in the hand.

In November, a Massachusetts man tried to buy an Xbox through the app and successfully met up with the seller, who directed him to a man across the street. The second man then snatched the Xbox from the buyer and indicated that he had a weapon, so the victim let him go. In the same city, just one week earlier, a man who posted a pair of sneakers for sale said he was robbed at gunpoint.

In October, a 22-year-old Texas man who was trying to buy a cellphone was instead robbed of his wallet in a Walmart parking lot. The buyer had tried to set up the meeting inside the store, but the seller met him outside and was able to make a quick getaway.

These are just a few of the more recent incidents. The company is working to change its reputation and better protect its users by partnering with law enforcement to provide safe, neutral, well-lit and surveilled meet-up spots where people can swap their old things for cash.

These locations can be found through the app, and buyers and sellers can use the chat feature to coordinate mutually agreeable times and places to make the exchanges.

“Our daily focus boils down to one little word with a whole lot of power: Trust,” OfferUp said in a statement. “We’re excited about building the go-to marketplace for sellers, for buyers, for seekers of unique and treasured finds, but more than anything, we want to help our community members make better, safer connections with each other both online and offline. Our Community Meetup Spots are critical to that mission.”

That sounds nice in print, but trust can be hard to earn — especially when there’s a bad reputation to overcome. However, OfferUp seems to recognize that and acknowledges the challenge ahead as it works toward a system that does not put buyers and sellers at risk.

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