MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) — As the holiday season approaches, Middle Tennessee authorities urge online sellers and buyers to take extra precautions when meeting strangers in person to carry out transactions.
“Anytime you’re meeting someone for any reason, if it’s a stranger who you’ve met online, there is a risk there,” said Capt. Tyler Chandler with the Mt. Juliet Police Department.
That risk put a Smyrna couple in danger last week in Mt. Juliet.
Around 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, Mt. Juliet officers said they responded to a shootout at Providence Marketplace after a husband and wife traveled to the Target parking lot to sell a firearm to someone they met through an online marketplace.
According to authorities, when the husband got out of his vehicle, the buyer and another person allegedly ambushed him and started shooting. The husband ran to his vehicle, grabbed a gun, and shot back.
“For some grace of God, that man was not hit by any gunfire, nobody in the community was,” Chandler said.
Less than a week later, authorities said they arrested an 18-year-old who allegedly lured a family to a Hermitage parking lot back in June by arranging the sale of a nail gun and drill through Facebook Marketplace.
According to an arrest document from Wednesday, Nov. 15, the suspect not only pistol whipped the victim and robbed the family, but he took a picture of the victim’s license and threatened to come after the victim later.
Police advise anyone who is meeting a stranger for an online transaction to set the location at a safe exchange zone. Many law enforcement agencies have such zones outside their buildings.
“If someone doesn’t want to show up in that location to make the sale, major red flag — avoid it, find someone who’s going to buy the item, or where you can buy from them, at a local police department, at a safe exchange zone,” Chandler added.
If the buyer or seller is acting suspicious, you are encouraged to report them to local law enforcement, as well as the online marketplace.
In addition, officials recommend using legitimate banking methods whenever you need to send or receive money.