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Area woman in 'shock' after internet sale turns into robbery

Woman had cellphone snatched out of her hands in rec centre parking lot by male after posting phone for sale on Facebook Marketplace
Safe Trade Sign
The Orillia OPP detachment is home to a Project Safe Trade community safety zone that can be used for online transactions of goods.

An Orillia woman is in disbelief after being robbed outside the Orillia Recreation Centre where she tried to complete an online sale.

Grace Jolly, 20, was to meet a person on Monday afternoon after selling a cell phone to a male on Facebook Marketplace. When she met with the buyer to complete the transaction, he directed her to the far corner of the parking lot.

“He wanted me to meet at the far left of the parking lot,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t have done that, and it was a bad decision on my part.”

The male, whom she said appeared to be between 15 and 20 years old, then asked Jolly if she would mind if he went to the bank machine to withdraw cash, or if she would prefer an e-transfer.

“I said e-transfer because I didn’t want to sit there and wait for him to walk to the bank and back,” she explained.

While the male was pretending to be on his phone completing the online banking transaction, he snatched Jolly's phone from her hands and fled, running toward the Highway 12 bypass.

“I was in shock,” she said.

In retrospect, Jolly says she had a feeling that something was off with the buyer from the start. 

“He only has two photos on the Facebook profile,” she said. “His profile picture was just a photo of his shoes and pants.”

Jolly, in retrospect, wishes she hadn't met with the buyer alone and now realizes she should have met the seller somewhere safer.

“The Orillia Recreation Centre has no outdoor cameras,” she said. “They won’t be able to look back and see it.”  

Jolly says the robber's Facebook account appears to still be active, which concerns her and makes her think he will try to rob someone else.

Orillia OPP Const. Brett Boniface says people buying and selling online should consider using the parking lot at the Orillia OPP detachment at 1 University Ave. for transactions.

“We have designated parking spots that are marked for such transactions,” he said. “Everybody is welcome to come and use that. It’s a safe place, and it’s well lit.”

Boniface says people should never attempt a transaction without having some information about the buyer. He also says that buyers shouldn’t exchange money prior to seeing the item they are purchasing.

When it comes to buying items from social media, Boniface says it’s important to investigate the user's buying and selling history.

“A lot of platforms use rating systems for users,” he said. “That gives you a good idea if the person is a good buyer or seller.”

Boniface says checking the seller's or buyer's profile can provide a lot of information about them.

“If they don’t have any posts or very minimal posts, those are some red flags that should set off a seller or buyer,” he said.  

Boniface says Jolly did the right thing by calling 911 when she was robbed.

“That’s a great reaction,” he said. “She did everything right in reality. Police response in those types of instances if they’ve just occurred is going to be quite rapid.”

Hope is not entirely lost for Jolly; Boniface says her phone could still be recovered and the thief may be caught.

“We have a lot of investigative tools that can be used,” he said.

Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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