Tampa Bay Police Departments have an urgent warning for you if you’ve ever met strangers on websites to buy or sell something.
Tampa Police want you to be extra careful, after a local father was murdered when a Craigslist deal turned dangerous.
If Holiday, FL dad James Beck moved the meeting spot just a half mile away, things could have been different.
The spot where Beck was murdered is a two-minute drive away from a Tampa Police Department Substation.
We've heard it time and time again from police department officers urging us to find a place that's well lit, in a high traffic area or choose a police station parking lot to do Craigslist transactions. Some crime analysts also say you might want to choose a more secure website to find a buyer or seller.
The bad thing about Craigslist is anyone can pose as someone else. They can use a fake name and unlike some other websites, users can't rate or comment on the buyer or seller.
So when James Beck went to North 18th Street and East 24th Avenue, police say he didn't realize he was in trouble until it was too late.
Officers stress that you should try to screen the person before you meet them by talking to them on the phone, meeting them in a place you're familiar with and ALWAYS trusting your instincts.
Beck simply wanted to sell his son's dirt bike on Craigslist. He met a 16-year-old stranger in a dark, unfamiliar Tampa neighborhood and was shot and killed.
Neighbors heard the scuffle outside their doors, but by the time they tried to help, it was too late.
Police eventually arrested two teens connected to his murder. 17-year-old Dontae Johnson and 16-year-old Ramontrae Williams.
Here’s a few sites some security experts say are safer than Craigslist:
Offer up. It has an ID verification service that guarantees someone is who they say they are.
Also Facebook has really beefed up their buy, sell and swap feature-- We like that you can scan someone's profile and see if you have friends in common. Facebook also offers closed page groups where members can vet the individuals who add themselves to the groups.
Here are safe locations for online transactions:
In Pasco County, residents are allowed to use the parking lot at the Sheriff's Office Administration Building at 8700 Citizen Drive in New Port Richey or 7432 Little Road, New Port Richey. On the east side of the county, residents can use the sheriff’s office’s location at 36409 State Road 52 in Dade City.