Buyer beware: Facebook has become a haven for scammers. Here’s how to stay safe from a few typical Facebook Marketplace scams.
Every month, over a billion people purchase and sell things on Facebook Marketplace, but they aren’t the only ones making money. Facebook Marketplace scams are on the rise: according to the Federal Trade Commission’s most recent study, 9 out of 10 victims of online purchasing frauds claim they were duped using Facebook or Instagram in 2021.
Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate at cybersecurity firm Comparitech, states that buyers on Facebook Marketplace “have a lot more direct interaction and conversation with sellers than they do on eBay or Amazon.” “That gives con artists the chance to trick victims into falling for multiple scams with less supervision.”
Despite their plausible appearance, these con games have a few commonalities that make them easy to identify. The most prevalent Facebook Marketplace scams are covered here, along with advice on how to prevent them so you may shop with confidence knowing that your money is safe from thieves. Learn about these typical OfferUp, eBay, and Amazon scams after reading up on crucial Facebook Marketplace safety advice, such as how to block someone on Messenger and restore a hijacked Facebook account.
Typical frauds on Facebook Marketplace
Making payments or corresponding outside of Facebook
The way this scam operates is that when you show interest in an item that has been listed for sale, the seller may invite you to get in touch with them or send money through a different platform. According to Bischoff, “scammers frequently want to get your money in a way that is irretrievable,” such as through a Venmo payment or wire transfer. “They might persuade victims to call or chat outside of Facebook, where their correspondence cannot be monitored, in addition to using outside payment methods.”
1. Posting goods
The way this scam operates is that con artists demand payment up front and never deliver the item. According to Chris Hauk, a consumer privacy specialist at Pixel Privacy, “buyers run the risk of not receiving the items they pay for, either via non-delivery or by being delivered anything but what they pay for” when they consent to pay for an item in full. In order to give the impression that the item has been dispatched, the fraudster may provide fictitious tracking information or screenshots, but in actuality, they have already made off with your money.
How to recognize it: Getting stuff delivered by mail is occasionally inevitable, even though it’s preferable to only buy things that you can check out and pick up in person. In those circumstances, it may be best to avoid dealing with sellers who are unable to supply you with images or videos of the item before you buy it or who demand payment through methods other than Facebook’s approved channels. Facebook marketplace scams can be more subtle than you might imagine; one example is this real-life account of a victim of fraud on Facebook.
2. Distributing fake goods
How this scam operates: Don’t fall for a tempting offer on an uncommon game console or a designer purse. The Facebook Marketplace is a breeding ground for things that are pirated or counterfeit, often with price tags that seem inflated. According to Hauk, “if a seller is asking significantly less than the going rate for an item, they’re probably up to something.”
How to recognize it: Hauk suggests researching an item’s average price in advance and contrasting it with the price that is displayed on Facebook Marketplace. He advises always remembering the proverb, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Prior to making a purchase, you should also ask to see several images of the item, including a video, and use a reverse image search to determine whether any of the images are real.
3. Overspending on the vendor
How this scam operates: Scammers can, shockingly, also con sellers. One popular scam involves a customer paying the seller more than what was sought for the item using a stolen credit card, then claiming to have made a mistake and asking for a partial refund. The victim will reimburse the excess, but since the first payment was rejected and never reached the seller’s account, the victim is left footing the bill while the criminal keeps the money for themselves.
How to recognize it: If you get paid more than you were supposed to, refuse the transaction and request that the buyer send you the correct amount. Anyone who responds to such request in an untrustworthy way may be a con artist. Moving forward, ensure that you are also capable of identifying some additional prevalent internet frauds.
4. Requesting cash in advance
The way this scam operates is that the con artist may claim that a particular item is in high demand and request a deposit or money in advance to guarantee your seat. It’s likely that you won’t get the item and the con artist will run off with your money. Referred to as a “reservation” or “pay-in-advance” plan, Matthew Paxton, the creator of the tech and gaming website Hypernia, claims that “this is one of the easiest ways to get scammed.”
How to spot it: According to Paxton, you should never consent to pay for something before getting it. You are probably dealing with a scammer if the merchant employs coercive methods and expresses a strong need for upfront payment. Just so you know, con artists also employ high-pressure methods in romance scams on social media and dating platforms, so be aware of such warning signs.
5. Making fictitious accounts
How this scam operates: Carefully review the seller’s profile on Facebook Marketplace before making a purchase. In order to deceive customers into purchasing fictitious or nonexistent goods, some con artists create phony Facebook profiles. After taking the money, they vanish.
How to recognize it: The creation date of the Facebook account is one of the most important things to search for. Burton Kelso, a tech specialist at Integral, an on-site computer service, says that brand-new accounts need to raise suspicions. “Most people have a Facebook account that was set up at least ten years ago in this day and age,” he claims. These are also indicators that an Amazon seller is not to be trusted: “Buyer beware if you see a Facebook account that was created within the last couple of months.”
6. Putting up fake rentals
How this scam operates: Beware, prospective homeowners—not every rental property listing on Facebook Marketplace is authentic. According to Sebastian Illing, co-founder of Alpaca Technology, which sorts through hundreds of Facebook listings, “we have found that this is a niche that is rife with scammers.” “We’ve come across a number of apartment rental scams, including ones where people post rentals that belong to other people, use false or deceptive pictures in their listings, and charge extortionate fees for background checks.”
How to spot it: Scammers employ a variety of strategies, such as demanding instant payment, failing to show the flat, or using exaggerated or deceptive images, to convince victims that a rental is real. It’s generally advisable to visit the property in person and make sure it’s available before submitting an application or sending money. Alarms should be raised by anyone who tells you they can’t show you the house because they’re out of town or who insists you put down a deposit right now, according to Illing.
7. Selling defective products
How this scam operates: According to Kelso, selling a broken item is one of the most common Facebook Marketplace scams. “Especially when buying computers or other tech devices, this can happen,” he explains. Although the vendor is aware that the item is broken, they are hoping you won’t inspect it before giving them the money.
How to spot it: Kelso advises turning on and testing anything you buy, such as electronics, to make sure they function properly before making a payment. Furthermore, Hauk advises, “don’t allow yourself to be pressured to make a deal.” “Leave the transaction if the seller—or buyer, for that matter—pushes you to decide quickly. Take caution when it comes to these deceptive “deals” that are really money scams; if anything smells strange, it probably is.
8. Promoting fictitious freebies
According to Patrick Moore, co-founder of the cryptocurrency website CryptoWhat, scammers post links to fictitious cryptocurrency giveaways on their accounts in the hopes that gullible people will click on them. Because anyone can post anything on Facebook without going through any verification procedures, he says, scammers can utilize the platform for their own promotion. By clicking on the link, victims run the risk of infecting their computers with malware, which gives hackers access to private data including bank account and email passwords. Here are some pointers for spotting fraudulent social media advertisements.
How to spot it: Giveaways that look too good to be true are probably scams, just like a lot of other Facebook Marketplace scams. Ignore dubious-looking links, report fraudulent accounts to Facebook, and keep an eye out for these warning signs that your computer has been compromised in order to avoid your data from ending up in the wrong hands.
9. Needing deposits for cars
How this scam operates: Although there is a huge demand for cars on Facebook Marketplace, prospective purchasers should reconsider before making a deposit. According to Piyush Yadav, proprietor of the price-comparison website Ask Any Difference, scammers frequently ask clients to deposit a modest cash to retain a car, then when it’s time to meet up, they give them a phony address.
How to spot it: Do your homework in advance by visiting reliable websites like Kelley Blue Book to find out what you should budget for, rather than relying on the assurances of an online seller. Prior to making a purchase, Facebook’s Help Center advises setting up an automobile inspection and receiving a vehicle history report from the Federal Trade Commission.
10. Unpredictable prices
How this scam operates: Paxton advises walking away if a vendor modifies an item’s price after you message them. It can indicate that you’re the victim of a bait-and-switch scam. In this case, a con artist entices clients with a low price before attempting to upsell them on an alternative, more costly product.
How to spot it: Paxton suggests backing away as soon as they exhibit inconsistent behavior. Inconsistency is another clue you might be purchasing on a fraudulent website. Facebook Marketplace’s guidelines advise rejecting demands from the seller “to make additional payments for shipping or other previously unlisted charges after the transaction is complete” because “it’s not worth the drama.”
11. Scams on Google Voice
The way this scam operates is that a con artist approaches a seller on Facebook Marketplace, shows interest in their goods, and requests a phone number to verify the seller’s identity. The con artist uses that number to create a Google Voice account, gives the seller the Google verification code, and requests the code in order to establish their legitimacy. The scammer can now utilize their newly acquired Google Voice number for further evil deeds, such as phone call scams and doxxing attacks, if the vendor provides them with the code.
Scams using Google Voice might potentially affect purchasers. According to Mona Terry, chief victims officer at the Identity Theft Resource Center, “we are hearing that scammers are now posing as sellers on Facebook Marketplace and asking potential buyers to verify they are legitimate by providing a Google Voice verification code.” This is a recent development.
How to spot it: Daniel Clemens, founder and CEO of cybersecurity solutions company Shadow Dragon, advises you to be wary of anyone contacting you on Facebook Marketplace and requesting personal information, such as your phone number. An even stronger indicator to break off contact should be a request from Google Voice to send a verification code.
12. Insurance-fee frauds
How this scam operates: Scammers will ask buyers to cover the cost of shipping insurance in addition to the item and delivery charges when sending products by mail. Terry claims that the con artist occasionally even sends a phony invoice as verification. However, the con artist vanishes when the money is received.
How to spot it: Reputable sellers on Facebook Marketplace won’t ask for money more than the item’s price plus any applicable shipping charges. Should someone request payment for unforeseen expenses, immediately cancel the transaction.
13. Scams with Facebook Marketplace Zelle
How this scam operates: Zelle fraudsters employ the well-known digital payment service to take your money, just like advance-payment and auto deposit scams do. Scammers prey on sellers by using Zelle as a payment method, either sending an amount greater than the item’s price or sending a phony email that appears to be from Zelle. Conversely, a fraudulent vendor may request payment through Zelle from a customer and then disappear with the money without providing the item.
How to spot it: Before accepting or agreeing to pay money from Facebook Marketplace customers using Zelle, pause and consider your options. “Scammers know that Zelle offers instant funds transfer, and should a transaction go awry, the charges that a user authorized are not protected,” explains Chris Furtick, director of security engineering at cybersecurity firm Fortalice Solutions. Instead, use safer payment methods like PayPal or Facebook Checkout.
How to protect yourself from Facebook Marketplace scammers
- Conduct some research. Make sure you are speaking with the right person before proceeding with any transaction. Hauk advises examining a seller’s profile for unfavorable comments and steering clear of recently opened accounts with zero reviews.
- Make purchases via Facebook. If something goes wrong, using the proper shipping and payment channels will safeguard your money.
- Obtain a tracking ID. Hauk advises acquiring a shipping tracking number if you’re receiving an item through mail. Of course, to secure your purchase, don’t forget to use Facebook Checkout.
- Try to have a face-to-face meeting with the seller. You can meet the seller in person to inspect the merchandise before making a payment, or you can use Facebook Marketplace’s filters to limit your search to products that are available for local pickup.
- Never purchase something before getting it. Rather, swap the item and the cash at the same time. Make sure this is in a well-lit, accessible, and public area for safety’s sake.
- Never attend a meetup by yourself. Facebook advises, as an extra precaution, to bring a companion or to let a friend or family member know when you plan to meet with a vendor in person.
- Refuse excessive payments. Additionally, insist on using Facebook-approved channels for all payments. (Again, your best option in this case is Facebook Checkout.)
Don’t divulge private information. Generally speaking, you should never divulge your phone number, date of birth, social security number, bank account information, or credit card information. According to Clemens, “be on guard if someone is asking for these things in a progression.”
What steps does Facebook take to stop scammers?
Facebook has implemented various safeguards for customers and sellers on Facebook Marketplace in an effort to thwart fraudulent activities. To begin with, customers can rate and review vendors utilizing a five-star rating system according to how well their transaction went. In addition to badges like “Super Seller,” “Very Responsive,” and others, the seller’s commerce profile will display the buyer rating that they have received.
Facebook’s Buy Protection policy also applies to certain purchases made on Marketplace. A buyer may be entitled to a refund if their order was damaged or they never received it at all. But bear in mind that, in Furtick’s words, “the Purchase Protection plan is very specific on what is covered and how the item should be paid for.” You have to utilize Facebook Checkout for your transaction in order to be eligible for the Buy Protection coverage.
Lastly, Facebook provides a responsible and safe online buying and selling instruction on Facebook Marketplace. It covers many of the recommended practices, such as meeting in person, being on the lookout for counterfeit goods, and using secure payment methods, that consumers and sellers should think about in order to protect themselves online. Check out these additional Facebook scams that you should avoid.
How to proceed if you believe you have been duped
Although Facebook Marketplace is always on the lookout for fraud and eliminating listings that don’t follow their guidelines, they can’t capture everything. Experts advise reporting any scams you think you’ve been the victim of right away to Facebook and blocking the perpetrator.
Click the Marketplace button in the left-hand corner of your computer screen, select the seller’s listing, and then click on the vendor’s name on Facebook Marketplace to report a seller. Next, choose Report Seller by clicking the three dots button, and then adhere to the on-screen directions.
You can also report financial loss to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission. Additionally, if your Facebook account was compromised, follow these instructions to get it back and strengthen the security of your password going forward.