DARIEN — Visitors to the Darien Police Station will notice a new sign in the parking lot next to police headquarters. Positioned between two parking spaces is a sign now declaring the lot an Internet Purchase Exchange Location for people to trade off goods purchased and sold through Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and other online sites.

Often times, buying and selling goods on the Internet requires meeting up with strangers to make the purchase, something that runs obvious safety risks. Police got the idea of designating the parking lot as a safe exchange space through a Facebook post where they saw another police department doing it.

“E-commerce presents a lot of new opportunities, but challenges for law enforcement,” said Duane Lovello, chief of police in Darien. “We want people to be secure taking advantage of it.”

The sign designating the lot a safe exchange place went up on Oct. 12 and on Oct. 13, the station was added to the National Safe Trade location list. The parking lot is under 24 hour video surveillance and people from any community can meet there at any time, as to avoid having to give out home addresses and meeting there. Police said Darien may serve as a good halfway point for some parties, especially those coming from New York and meeting at a distinct location like the police station also cuts down the confusion of finding the right house in some cases.

While there was no specific incident in Darien that triggered the designation, Sgt. Jeremiah Marron of the Darien Police Department said they regularly hear of people falling victim to or encountering scams Internet purchases.

“Just yesterday [a friend called me] about a post from Craigslist and the would-be buyer was determined to be a scammer,” Marron said.

Marron said that a common scam is for a potential buyer to send a seller a check for more than the amount of the item and then ask the seller to wire the leftover money from the purchase back to the buyer. The buyer will then deposit the check and wire the leftover money, only to find out afterwards that the check was fraudulent and the money they ended up wiring was their own funds.

More Information

Here is some advice from Darien police on how to safely buy and sell items from the internet.

Only use websites you are familiar with.

Never provide personal information over the internet.

Never purchase anything online using your credit card from a site that does not have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer).

When taking photos, utilize the cut and paste method from a Word document. This will make it harder for someone to utilize GPS location programs to find where you live.

Take a photo of just the item you are selling. Items in the background can represent additional targets for the would‐be criminal.

Ask a lot of questions.

Don’t go alone and show up early.

Finally, use the Darien Police Department “Internet Purchase Exchange Location” created to provide a safe place to make and document these types of transactions.

Having a safe place to meet someone in person will reduce the amount of online exchange of money required in these transactions. The fact that it’s the parking lot of a police station will also hopefully reduce the likelihood of scams occurring.

“I would guess someone with criminal motivations would be hesitant to go to the police department,” Lovello said.

Police did emphasize though that they will not be monitoring transactions occurring in the lot or tracking the number that occur (though surveillance footage from the lot could be used as evidence should a person get scammed there). No transactions are to occur in the lobby of the building, nor do police want other exchanges, such as custody trade offs, occurring in the lot. Users should also not conduct exchanges of illegal or dangerous goods (such as weapons) in the lot.

“First and foremost, it’s about having a safe location [for online exchanges],” Marron said. “There’s been incidents where people have been hurt or killed and we’re eliminating those risks.”

Those interested in using the police department for transactions should tell the other party to meet at the Darien Police Department at 25 Hecker Ave Darien, CT. A GPS should direct users directly to the building where they should go to the parking lot on the south side to the spots marked with the new sign. For more information about other safe spaces in the area, go to www.safetradestations.com.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata