Victoria police have arrested a suspect they believed is linked to a series of armed robberies that targeted people trying to buy used video game systems from online listings.
The man was arrested late Friday (Oct. 28) by members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team. He is a suspect in four armed robberies, including one on the West Shore.
During the arrest and search, detectives found several realistic replica firearms.
The victims reported contacting a seller from listings on Used Victoria that were advertising used video game systems on the platform. They then reported the man pulled a handgun on them, demanding the money they brought for the purchase.
Nobody was physically injured in these armed robberies, but victims were left “deeply shaken,” police said.
The investigation is ongoing, with the suspect still in custody, the Victoria Police Department said in a statement.
Police are still looking for witnesses, as they learned during their investigation that several people may have had interactions with the suspect.
“This was a very rare occurrence and the first of its kind in over 15 years of business here in Victoria. We are thankful the buyers were not physically hurt in these cases, and we want to share our safety messages with the community to help prevent this from happening again,” said Lacey Sheardown, Used Victoria president and director of marketing.
“We work behind the scenes to assist law enforcement officials when we can and in this case, we understand the information we provided was timely and critical. We are grateful for the members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team and the Major Crime Unit for their work in this arrest.”
With more than 330,000 ads posted, Used Victoria receives approximately 1,000 new ads each day. Sheardown offered the following tips to help people navigate those listings.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, she explained. When a selling price is well below the average selling price, walk away. She suggested searching for other similar items to understand what the standard asking price is.
“A picture is worth a thousand words. Does the ad have an image? Are the images stock photos or from the seller’s home? You can perform a reverse image search to see if the image has been copied from somewhere on the internet – if it has, the ad may be fraudulent.”
She also suggested looking at a seller’s profile and other items they have listed for sale.
Buyers should also be cognizant of where the seller is asking to meet and avoid meeting in dark places or random street locations.
Online scams are more common than in-person theft and Sheardown warned buyers to never send money via e-transfer or wire before receiving the item.
And if something looks suspicious, ads can be reported with the click of a button or the moderation team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“UsedVictoria.com is a community-built platform and the safety of our users is our number one priority. We have a number of automated safety measures in place, as well as a live moderation team to help ensure user safety,” she added.
Police advised anyone who is meeting a seller or buyer to do it in a brightly lit, public place that is likely to have surveillance cameras, like a shopping mall or municipal building. Police also suggested bringing a buddy and if something does go wrong, going to a safe place before calling 911.
Anyone with information can contact VicPD at 250-995-7654, ext. 1, or report anonymously to Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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