A safe transaction zone is now located in Riverhead outside the Sheriff's Office at 100 Center Drive. Photo: Peter Blasl

Websites like Craigslist have made it easier to sell everything from unwanted furniture to old cars, but they often require face-to-face meetings with a stranger to complete the sale.

Meeting a stranger alone can be dangerous, so the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is offering residents a safer place to conduct these in-person transactions.

Two “Safe Transaction Zones” have been established to prevent some of the crimes associated with online transactions, like robbery, theft and assault. The zones, located outside the Sheriff’s facilities in Riverhead and Yaphank, are in full view of on-duty deputy sheriffs and will help deter criminals who are looking to commit crimes against unsuspecting strangers online.

“Citizens are encouraged to use the marked areas as a place to meet and conduct transactions that require in-person exchanges of online purchases,” the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release today.

Residents who want to meet a buyer or seller in a safe transaction zone should do so during the daylight hours. It is not necessary to make an appointment with the Sheriff’s Office to meet in one of the zones.

The Sheriff’s Office plans to expand this initiative to additional locations within Suffolk County in the future, and video cameras will soon be installed in both areas to make them even safer.

Both safe transaction zones are marked with red and white signs outside the Sheriff’s Office facilities in Riverhead and Yaphank. Sheriffs deputies will not participate in the exchanges or act as official witnesses in transactions, but their presence nearby will deter criminal activity.

Here are a few more safety tips to keep in mind when conducting such transactions:

• 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 our 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
• Only use 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 come to the Sheriff’s Office to do a transaction it is probably not a legitimate transaction.

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Katie Blasl
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a reporter, editor and web developer for the LOCAL news websites. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie