Retired detective creates app to protect online sellers, buyers

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SAN DIEGO - A retired San Diego police detective created a way to stop criminals from taking advantage of people who sell and buy items online and through apps.

The holidays are time of year when extra cash is a must and many people turn to the internet or apps to sell and buy items online.  The use of online sites have been known to put some people at risk of criminal activity.

During the 31 years he spent as a detective of the San Diego Police Department, Gary Lawrence witnessed case after case of what police refer to as “robberies by appointment.”

“There was one murder in San Diego regarding a Craigslist transaction. A young man was trying to buy a laptop and he ended up being shot and killed,” Lawrence said.

The now retired detective said at this time of year, cases involving people getting scammed online and robbed spike.  He came up with the Swap Safe app as a way to protect people.

After a buyer and seller connect on a website or app, they go to the Swap Safe app where they find one of San Diego County's nine affiliate mail center locations. The seller drops off the item for sale at one of the locations. The buyer is notified, goes to the center at their earliest convenience, pays a rep and takes the item. The seller is then notified their money is ready for pickup.

The deal can be completed for a flat fee of $10 and neither the buyer or seller ever has to meet.

“If you’re going to sell your item for $200, charge $210….when the buyer asks why, explain to them, I’m keeping you both safe,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said three more Swap Safe mail centers will be opening soon.