FITCHBURG -- A Leominster man made an arrangement over Craigslist to purchase a Sony PlayStation from a Fitchburg man Saturday night.
When the two met on Canton Street, the Leominster man gave the Fitchburg man $80. The latter disappeared into a nearby home and did not return with the PlayStation, while the former called police.
Fitchburg police went undercover that night, responding to another Craigslist ad with the same listed phone number purporting to sell a toolbox.
Around 10 p.m., in an unmarked car, they met up on Everett Street with Alberto Ramos, 28, of 8 Nashua St., who fit the description of the suspect in the earlier case, according to Sgt. Glenn Fossa. Ramos was arrested on two outstanding warrants and charged with possession of a Class B substance (Percocet) and possession of a Class C substance (clonazepam), Fossa said, and will also be charged with larceny under $250 by false pretenses.
In September, a 19-year-old Fitchburg man was charged with armed robbery, assault with a dangerous weapon and four counts of threatening to commit murder after he allegedly pulled a gun on a Leominster man looking to sell an XBox gaming system and threatened to shoot him and his three friends in July.
Though Craigslist robberies have occurred in the city before, Saturday was the first occasion in which police went undercover to capture the perpetrator, he said.
Fitchburg police are warning residents about the possible consequences of answering online classified ads.
"The rule still is, if it seems too good be true, it probably is," said Chief Robert DeMoura.
Craigslist recommends dealing locally with folks one can meet in person, in a public place and with a friend accompanying, if possible.
Fossa recommended any meetings occur in the daylight, as "you don't know what other possibilities there are participating in a transaction late at night."
He said it is best to limit the amount of personal contact with people over Craigslist, and to mail items and exchange money through PayPal when possible. Fossa also warned against accepting fake cashiers' checks and money orders, as banks will hold those who cash them responsible.
He warned residents against purchasing expensive items sight-unseen, renting housing without seeing the interior, or submitting to credit or background checks for jobs or housing before meeting the interviewer, landlord or agent in person.
Fitchburg police are also sending out a general warning against any other online scams, such as those that claim the recipient has won a foreign lottery or business proposals that require wiring funds. Never give out any financial information, bank account or Social Security numbers, Fossa said.
DeMoura said the Police Department will be looking further into reducing fraud and crimes involving the elderly this year, as well.
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