Seller robbed in Kijiji deal has advice for others using online marketplaces

Buy-and-sell sites are convenient and popular, but robberies happen. Musician Luke Roes, whose laptop was stolen by a buyer last week, said other sellers should take more time to read the situation before handing over their items.

During a pandemic, masks make people more anonymous

A screenshot from the second seller's home security system footage shows the man who robbed local musician Luke Roes the same evening. (Facebook)

A London, Ont. man who thought he made a legitimate sale online has a warning after the laptop he was selling was stolen almost out of his hands. 

Luke Roes answered his front door last Thursday to the buyer who had arrived late to purchase his 2015 Macbook Pro, which he'd listed on Kijiji.

"They were delaying as they were coming to get it, which sometimes happens when people get stuck in traffic," he said. "But now I think they were just waiting for it to get dark enough."

The buyer, who appeared to have arrived on foot, asked to see the laptop then bolted once he'd grabbed it. Roes chased him down the street before watching the man climb into a Nissan with the laptop and taking off at high speed.

"As they were driving away, I made the split-second decision to either kick the car or take a photo of it, so I took a couple of photos," said Roes. 

After he posted about the experience, Roes said another London seller contacted him and told him they'd been robbed the same night. The second seller sent him a screen shot of their home security camera footage. Roes identified the man in the video as the buyer who'd stolen his laptop. 

Police ran the plates of the getaway car and found they had been reported stolen. (Facebook)

"Now, I'm just hoping we can avoid other people getting hit by the same dudes, and encourage them to be safe and more cautious than usual," he said. "People can be more anonymous with masks right now." 

Beware of burner accounts

Buy-and-sell sites are convenient and popular, but robberies happen. In 2019, two would-be Kijiji customers were robbed at knife-point at a house in east London.

In the past, RCMP detachments have encouraged people to use the area in front of their local police office to meet with buyers or sellers. The London Police Department's front lobby is a designated Safe Exchange Zone, open seven days a week and under 24-hour surveillance. 

London Police also recommend notifying a friend or family member before going to make an exchange and giving them a time estimate of when you'll be back. are going and when they should expect you back. 

In non-pandemic times, Kijiji also recommends meeting in public places with lots of people around, like coffee shops, to make exchanges. 

Roes, who has sold on Kijiji in the past without issue, says he should have asked for an upfront e-transfer and taken more time to read the situation.

"It's brutal because they're obviously organized enough and committed enough that they're going to do it a bunch more," said Roes of the thieves.

He also encourages sellers to take a closer look at the prospective buyer's account before agreeing to a sale. Kijiji accounts show how long a person has been on the platform. The account he'd been communicating with had only been functional for a day.

"That's usually a pretty good red flag," he said.

Laptop recovery

Recovering his own computer is unlikely though he has reported it to police. Officers said the Nissan's license plates were stolen. Roes had also wiped the laptop of its data for the new user, and erasing the hard drive disables the computer's tracking device.  

Kijiji says on its website that buyers or browsers who think they've discovered stolen goods should contact local police to report the incident and get a reference number.  


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