People who buy items online are being urged to be cautious after a number of armed robberies, including in Oldham.
The warning from Greater Manchester Police comes after armed robbers targeted car buyers through false advertisements on online auction sites, including eBay.
There were at least 12 such cases reported to police from across the region between November 19, 2019, and January 22, 2020.
On most occasions, offenders falsely advertised a car on an online auction site and organised to meet the buyers at a given location for the car sale. On arrival, the potential buyers were threatened with weapons - including a gun, a hammer and machetes - and offenders fled with a large quantity of the victim's cash.
Police say no arrests have been made and enquiries are ongoing.
A number of victims have been targeted from across the UK, and the police have issued the following advice on how to stay safe:
· Look into the seller or buyer – whether a private individual or online store. Look at their profile, their rating and transaction history. New sellers and buyers may not have a very comprehensive history, so be a little more cautious.
· When going to collect the car from a private seller take someone to accompany you. If you are going alone, make sure you tell a friend or family member about your meeting e.g. location, time and your expected time of return.
· If possible, try to arrange to collect the car in a public, neutral location to inspect and test drive the vehicle.
· Try to only arrange to meet a private seller during daylight hours.
· Consider paying for the car using electronic transfer to avoid carrying large amounts of cash, but only when you have seen and inspected the vehicle.
Detective Sergeant Kat McKeown, of GMP’s City of Manchester division, said: “I want to reassure the public that we are taking these armed robberies very seriously and are working with online auction sites and other police forces to conduct a thorough investigation to try and find those responsible.
“These offenders are very deceptive, so I would urge the public to please take note of the advice we have issued about staying safe when buying items online. Please remain alert and cautious, and report anything suspicious to police immediately.
“We are working with the victims that have come forward and I would urge anyone with any information relating to these robberies to get in touch with our investigation team on the numbers below.”
Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 4409, quoting incident number 1926 of 21/01/2020. Reports can be made anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.