Police offer safety tips after disappearance of North Carolina man following ‘online car sale that went horribly wrong’

Local News

WYTHEVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — After a North Carolina man went missing and a Danville man was charged with murder following what police call an online car sale gone horribly wrong, a local police department is offering potential buyers and sellers safety tips for shopping interactions.

William “Andy” Banks of Raleigh was last seen Saturday, Sept. 12, after his family said he was meeting someone in the K&W Cafeteria parking lot at Cameron Village in North Carolina about selling his 2011 Silver Range Rover Sport.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Patrick LaTour said in court that Justin Fernando Merritt of Danville came from Virginia “under the guise” of buying Banks’ SUV, which was found in Danville on Monday, Sept. 14.

In addition, According to Raleigh police, a body, likely that of Banks, was discovered in Virginia on Thursday, Sept. 17, with help from the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office.

“In short, this was an online car sale that went horribly wrong,” the Wytheville Police Department wrote on Facebook on Friday, Sept. 18. “Even though the seller met the buyer in a public place, K&W Cafeteria parking lot he still fell victim to this terrible crime.”

Selling unwanted belongings online is a popular practice, with most transactions able to go off without any problems, police say. However, the department shared tips so both the seller and the buyer can practice safe shopping:

  • Meet at a public place: Meeting in a public place give you extra sense of security. With many people around and the added benefit of security cameras, this may deter online predators.
  • Try the product out first: If you are trying to buy an electronic item or something that could be broken, ask for a demonstration. If the seller hesitates, this probably isn’t the deal for you.
  • Bring backup: Never meet someone you don’t know by yourself. Bring a friend or family member with you. This lessens the likelihood of being attacked.
  • Only bring enough cash for the purchase: If a seller demands an online transfer or payment before you meet to get the product, don’t do it. Also, never carry large amounts of cash with you.
  • Don’t give out your information: Since you will be meeting someone at a public place, there is no need for a buyer or seller to know your home address. You can furnish an email address if you are comfortable.
  • Trust your gut: If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Also, if anything the seller or buyer says raises a red flag, it’s probably best to go with your instincts and move on.

Police also shared a number of extra safety tips for transactions involving the online purchase or sale of a car:

  • Meet the buyer/seller in-person, and preferably not alone.
  • Look for good, clear pictures.
  • If the ad or communication has poor language, be wary.
  • Know the price of the car.
  • Make sure you see (or have) all the right paperwork.
  • Pay in cash, never wire money.
  • Make sure the seller has the title in hand and the vehicle is registered to the seller.

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