The risks of shopping on classified websites and how to protect yourself

Posted at 8:21 PM, Oct 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 14:16:57-04

A 24-year-old Valley man is now facing murder charges after police say he gunned down and robbed a man during an online sales exchange. 

According to court documents, Michael Alexander Abel shot and killed 32-year-old Austin Parton back on Oct. 18. The two were apparently meeting up so Parton could purchase a laptop from Abel at the Ramada Inn off the U.S. 60 and Dobson and Mesa.

Police say the two met through the sales app Offer Up. 

The next morning, Parton's body was located. His cell phone, two laptops, and vehicle were missing.

The items were eventually located after Abel was arrested.

Friends remember Parton as a talented musician who was also a drug and alcohol counselor. One friend told ABC15, "He really was the nicest person you would ever meet." 

Parton's story is one so many of us can connect with — the surge in online sales, especially through apps, is undeniable. 

Parton followed all the rules. He met during daylight hours, arranged to make the sale in a public place and knew there would be people nearby. 

But even with all those precautions, he still ended up paying with his life. 

We did some digging and found out only three Valley police departments have designated safe locations where you can complete online commerce transactions. 

ASU police allow students, faculty, and staff to use an area near their lobby for these kinds of deals. 

Chandler police tell us their parking lots are available as well. 

Tempe police said they have a designated area inside the lobby of their headquarters, near 5th Street and Forest Avenue, for shoppers and sellers to meet.

Other Valley police departments say they frequently see people in their parking lots or lobbies, even though they do not have designated areas. 

Phoenix Police suggest you tell the person you're conducting business with that you'll be meeting in a place where there are lots of cameras. Experts say that's one way to try and reduce any potential dangers.