Like thousands of people across Canada Kara Snow is selling her car privately online. She’s fully aware it will bring strangers to her door. Fortunately she's doing a lot of things right to minimize the risk. "I always usually try and meet people during the day. I always try and get them to meet me in front of the building here where it's usually pretty busy. And I always make sure I have someone else with me so I never make it for a time when I have to be alone."
Snow’s back-up usually includes her father or her boyfriend. Having a sales partner is good advice for anyone attempting to sell a vehicle or other used item online. Because eventually, you’re going to have to meet your prospective buyer face to face. "You try not to attend alone.” Says Michael Haarbosch of the Ottawa Police Robbery Unit. “Bring a friend. Meet in some place that's very public with lots of foot traffic. And if possible, it's a little difficult with maybe a vehicle, but if possible someplace where there's video surveillance that captures the transaction and the people that you're dealing with."
There are even things you can do before you meet the buyer:
- Most online selling sites start out with fairly anonymous email contact. Ask the interested buyer for his or her phone number and then call them first. If they won’t give it that’s an obvious red flag.
- Ask them lots of questions about what they're looking for and why, and trust your gut.
- Ask who and how many are coming to the meeting.
- And tell them you want to see identification when they get there. When selling a car, a driver’s licence is an obvious must.
When it comes to offering a test drive, both you and your friend should accompany the driver. If you have to go alone, bring your cell phone. You can even pre-arrange a code word to call someone with if you start to feel nervous. Keep the drive short and in high traffic areas.
And remember that most sales go off without a hitch. "We haven't seen instances where a seller is meeting a buyer and they're being carjacked or robbed of the vehicle. That we have not seen," says Haarbosch.