Greensboro, NC -- It's a crime that happens once a week in Greensboro, and it happens by appointment.
Police say criminals are using websites like Craigslist to schedule robberies. They pose as buyers and sellers and are targeting people with valuable property.
Once a connection is made, the criminals pick the meeting spot and steal the goods or cash.
WFMY News 2's Morgan Hightower spoke to one of the victims' friends who witnessed the crime.
Zachary Hall and his friend were just trying to sell an iPhone.
They've bought and sold things countless times on Craigslist and never had a problem but when they went to make a deal Saturday, that all changed.
"It was 2:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, beautiful sunny day, people standing outside, people walking around, he seemed like a very unsuspecting person," said Zachary Hall.
Hall was tagging along with his buddy to sell an iPhone to a buyer he found on Craigslist, Saturday.
The meeting place was on Warren Street, right off of Spring Garden Road.
"My friend handed him the phone to look at it for a second and then my friend went to grab the charger out of the truck, as soon as he leaned in to get the truck, this guy ran off," said Hall.
The suspect took off behind a nearby house, bolted through several backyards, and ran towards an apartment complex.
Hall and his friend followed him until the suspect pulled out a knife.
"He pulled out a knife that he had planted out, he had it planted in the grass. That's basically when we backed off."
Hall added, "He had the whole thing planned out."
This crime is not unique. Greensboro Police say they get similar reports each week.
"We've had a consistent problem with offenders perpetrating crimes either by people pretending to sell electronic devices or targeting people who are selling electronic devices," said Detective Ethan Ellsworth.
He added, "We've had armed robberies with firearms, with knives. We've had several dozens of cases where the suspect tried to run and if the victim tried to pursue a lot of time the suspect would threaten with force or with a weapon."
In the past month, police have investigation three, including Hall's, of these "robberies by appointment."
On July 26, two women arranged to meet a man in an empty high school parking lot to buy a car stereo he advertised online. While making change for the women, one of them sprayed the man with mace and took the keys from his vehicle. The women then fled in their vehicle. The two women, later identified as Alika Donira Harris, 19, and Amberlyn Nichole Boyland, 21, were arrested August 5 and charged with robbery and conspiracy to commit a felony.
On August 3, a man arranged to meet someone who had advertised a computer for sale. The day of the transaction, the seller changed the location of the meeting. At the new meeting location, the seller and buyer began arguing. The seller then pulled a gun on the buyer and shot him, then robbed him of his money. The victim survived, but the suspect is still at large.
Arrange to meet buyer/seller in a police station parking lot.
Police say the best prevention for this crime is being overly prepared before meeting the buyer or seller.
Never agree to a last minute location change.
Never go to a meeting alone.
Talk to the other party by phone first to learn more about him or her.
When selling expensive electronic equipment, record the item's serial number or mark it with a personal identification symbol so it can be easily traced if stolen.
Never chase or fight with someone robbing you.
WFMY News 2, Greensboro Police Dept.