Facebook Marketplace has become a very popular site for people who are looking to buy and sell items like clothing, used bikes and furniture, or even for those looking to rent an apartment or buy a car. It’s specifically targeted to your location or area of choice, giving you access to items right in your neighborhood.
In 2022, Hootsuite, a social media management platform reported that Facebook Marketplace has 1 billion monthly active users worldwide. One of the main reasons it has become so popular is that it links buyers and sellers at no charge. Read more on how to identify, avoid and protect yourself from common scams while using Facebook Marketplace.
Identifying Facebook Marketplace Scams
- Beware of quick responses, fast payments and a sense of urgency. If you receive a response immediately after posting an item for sale, it is recommended that you wait at least 12-24 hours before replying to see if you get any other offers. A legitimate buyer will more than likely ask for additional information about the item for sale, such as the condition of the item. Potential buyers who ask for personal information like your email address or phone number or request the funds quickly are most likely scammers.
- A New Account = A Red Flag
- Be sure to review the account of any potential buyers.
- If you are interacting with an individual who has a new account that is not well established, chances are you’re dealing with a scammer. Be very cautious and ask questions prior to conducting business.
A Closer Look at Marketplace Scams
Facebook and security experts have identified these 8 tactics as the most common scams:
1. Ship or Drop Off the Item Before Payment is Received: A buyer may provide a fraudulent receipt claiming they have made a payment so that the merchandise is sent right away. When you’re buying or selling merchandise on Marketplace, it is best to use an accepted payment method such as PayPal. Read more about how to make safe payments.
- TIP: If making a payment using PayPal, don’t state that you are paying someone who is a friend or family member. You’ll lose your protection that way.
2. A Deal Too Good to Be True: Do you see a listing for the latest popular item at a fraction of the retail price? Chances are the item is a knock-off. Be sure to ask for multiple photos of the item or the original receipt prior to agreeing to purchase the item.
3. Immediate Interest: A “buyer” wants you to text them a location to meet to give them the item. That’s an attempt to retrieve your phone number, at which point the scammer could quickly register for a Google voice number, which will send a verification code to your phone. The scammer will ask you to send them the code you received – just to verify you are a real person. In reality, that code will unlock the Google voice number, which will assist the scammer to perpetuate more scams, including stealing your identity. It’s best to not communicate outside of Facebook Marketplace.
4. A Fake Rental Property: The house that’s being advertised may be exactly what you’re looking for, but do not send a deposit until you have gone to see the place in person and taken a tour. This way, you can make sure it is what it was advertised as and it’s actually available. Scammers will advertise properties that aren’t even for rent, but take your payment and then vanish.
5. A Broken Item: That smart TV, phone or gaming system you just paid $200 for doesn’t work, even though the listing said it was barely used. You met the seller at a local public place, handed your money over without having the opportunity to plug it in to make sure it works properly. When you get home and realize it doesn’t work, chances are you’ll never find that seller on Facebook again. It’s best to turn on and test out any electronic items before you make any sort of payment.
6. Bait and Switch: Posting one item for sale, then seeking to substitute it is the classic bait and switch. You finally find an item you’ve been searching for, then the seller tells you it isn’t available and offers another, more expensive item instead. Don’t be afraid to refuse a deal if it’s not what you originally wanted!
7. Overpayment: Let’s say the buyer and seller agree on a $20 sales price, but the buyer “accidentally” pays $50, tells the seller it was an error and asks for $30 back. The card that the seller used to pay you could have been stolen. Now, you’re out the original payment as well as the “overpayment” you returned. Be sure to decline overpayments and ask the buyer to resend payment in the correct amount.
8. The Lost Package: According to Facebook, a marketplace user can mark an item as never received when it actually was or that the item was shipped out when it actually wasn’t. In either case, that user will ask for a refund from the honest person in the transaction. Make sure you are able to retrieve tracking information for any shipments to help fend off this scam.
How to Report a Facebook Marketplace Scam
Facebook makes it easy to report a scam. If you suspect a scam or have fallen for one, report it immediately to Facebook Marketplace. If you spot a seller or buyer trying to pull off a scam, it’s important to report it to help protect other unsuspecting sellers and buyers.
- How to Report a Listing Scam:
- With the item listing open on your device screen, click the three dots in the upper right-hand corner.
- Click “report listing” and a menu of action items will pop up.
- Click “scam,” “appears to be counterfeit” or another reason you deem appropriate.
- You also have the option to block the seller.
- How to Report a Seller Scam:
- With the item listing open on your device screen, click on the name of the seller.
- Tap the three dots below the seller’s name.
- Click “report seller” and follow the prompts.
- How to Report a Buyer Scam:
- With the item listing open on your device screen, click the “more options” box.
- Then click “report buyer.” You’re also able to review the person’s Facebook account, which should help you determine whether the buyer has a longstanding account or a new one. If it’s a new account, and they are already active on marketplace, it could be a scammer.
While it’s unfortunate that we have to worry about financial fraud being perpetrated through a scam, even on social media platforms, it’s best to always be careful interacting with someone online that you have never met in person. The key takeaways are to be cautious, don’t engage with other parties outside of Facebook Marketplace, steer clear of links or other tools that could be phishing for information and report any scams to keep yourself and others safe. To stay up to date on all types of scams, read our blog to keep yourself and your information away from scammers.