New 'Safe Transaction Zones' for In-Person Exchanges of Online Purchases

Marked with red-and-white signs, the two Safe Transaction Zones in Riverhead and Yaphank are in full view of on-duty deputy sheriffs to help make meetings between buyers and sellers safer. Suffolk County Sheriff's Office

Need to meet someone you don't know to hand over money or goods from an online purchase? You're right to be cautious about such an exchange, what with the horror stories of robberies, thefts, and assaults all over the Internet. 

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco's office has a solution: It created two Safe Transaction Zones designed to help protect citizens from crimes associated with online transactions. Residents are being encouraged to use the areas as places to meet and conduct transactions that require in-person exchanges of online purchases during the day. 

The safety zones are located at the sheriff's office at 100 Center Drive in Riverhead and at the Yaphank facility at 202 Glover Drive.

Marked with red-and-white signs, the areas are in full view of on-duty deputy sheriffs. There are plans to add video cameras, as well. There is no appointment necessary. While such zones are not new in other parts of the country, these appear to be the first on Long Island, according to SafeDealZone.com.

East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said he thinks having designated areas is a great idea, one that his Police Department is also considering. The details haven't been worked out yet, but one could be set up at police headquarters in Wainscott or the satellite buildings. Until then, "We encourage the use of the sheriff's locations, or making arrangements to meet in front of one of our facilities," the chief said. 

In Riverhead and Yaphank, the deputies will not participate in the exchanges or act as official witnesses, the sheriff's office said in a press release, adding that these are considered civil matters. "However, with deputies nearby, the area will be safer for buyers and sellers and will deter criminals who want commit crimes against others."

The sheriff also provided the following safety tips:

• Do not go to a transaction alone.
• Make sure a friend or family member is aware of the transaction details.
• Insist on meeting in a public area like the Safe Transaction Zones.
• Do not go into someone else’s house, and do not allow them into yours.
• Complete the transaction during daylight hours.
• Be extra cautious when buying or selling valuable items such as vehicles and jewelry.
• Use only cash or money orders to complete your transactions.
• Trust your instincts: If it sounds like a scam, it probably is.
• If somebody is not willing to go to the sheriff’s office for a transaction, it is probably not a legitimate transaction.