Did you know that you can often find lots of goods locally using Facebook Marketplace? Facebook Marketplace is a service Facebook offers for users who want to buy and sell items, so it's really useful for finding second-hand items, like dressers in your neighborhood. However, like most person-to-person websites, such as Craigslist or eBay, Facebook Marketplace also is a hotbed for scammers. This minHour article lists some of the common scams on the Facebook Marketplace and provides you with a guide so you can learn safer shopping and selling habits.
They want to pay or communicate outside of Facebook.
For example, you express interest in a listing on the Marketplace but get a response with an email or phone number so you can talk outside of Facebook. Don’t fall for that. Scammers want you to pay in ways that are irretrievable or untraceable.
- Facebook’s purchase protection policies only cover payments made through Facebook, so scammers will steer you away from Facebook in an effort to steal your money. So if they ask for you to use Cash app or Venmo, stay away!
They want you to pay first, and the item will be shipped later.
In this case, the seller asks for you to pay for something and promises to ship it later. But they will take your money and never ship the item.
- Since you agreed to the purchase plan, you’ve knowingly agreed to pay now and run the risk of not getting the item in return.
- You may receive screenshots that the seller shipped your item, but these can be fake screenshots or false shipping information.
- To avoid this, it’s best to purchase items that you can pick up and hold in person, but that’s not always an option. The “Pay now and I’ll ship later” scam is sneaky and easier to avoid by shopping with reputable shops, outside of Facebook. Reputable shops only take your money when the item ships!
- Another popular use of this is if the seller claims that the item is very popular and selling out fast, in order to get you to fork out money in advance. They disappear before you get the item that you paid for.
If the item is too good to be true, it probably is.
Have you found a fantastic deal on an item in pristine condition that usually sells for much, much more? If it’s too good to be true, it’s most likely a scam.
- Counterfeit or pirated items usually have a very low price tag, so knowing the average price of what you’re looking for is a good idea to avoid getting a fake item.
- You can try a reverse image search to see if the image on the Marketplace is anywhere else or see if you can get multiple angles on the sale item so you can make sure it’s real before you buy it.
If they overpay the seller.
If you’re selling on the Marketplace, you’re also at risk of scams. In this instance, the buyer uses a stolen credit card to overpay for an item. That buyer then lets the seller know there was a mistake and asks for the overpaid funds back, so the seller sends the money back. However, the card is declined, and the money never ends up with the seller, but the seller gave money to the buyer.
- Avoid this by simply declining any overpayment and asking the buyer to send the correct amount.
Selling or renting fake property.
There are a plethora of scams for rentals on the Marketplace, so make sure you know the rental company before you transfer any money or make plans to move in. Scammers will use fake/misleading pictures, bait-and-switch practices, charge illegal or bogus fees, or post pictures of rentals owned by other people.
- Some of these scammers ask for money upfront, but make sure you’ve toured the property in person before filling out an application or transferring money. If someone claims they are out of town and can’t show you the property before you pay, that should be a red flag and you shouldn’t do business with them.
The items don’t work.
For example, you’re buying an electronic item, but when you get it, you realize it doesn’t work. Some sellers know that their item is broken and hope you don’t notice it before you hand over the money for it.
- Always test the item you’re purchasing to make sure it works properly. If the seller tries to sell you the item before you can test it, that’s a red flag and you shouldn’t spend your money on an item that is potentially an over-priced paperweight.
They advertise fake giveaways.
Since absolutely anyone can post on the Marketplace, there are some scammers who only post links to fake cryptocurrency giveaways. If you click this link, you’ll be redirected to a site with malware to steal your information!
- Avoid this by not clicking any suspicious or unknown links on Marketplace pages. If you did get malware in your system, you can easily get rid of any traces of malicious coding on your computer.
They ask for a code.
For example, you’ll get a code texted to you to “prove you’re real.” Don’t reply with that code because that code can be anything, from your two-factor identification code to your Instagram account or a Google Voice code.
Don’t trust receipts from buyers.
In this case, a buyer gives you a receipt to “prove that they’ve paid for an item of yours.” Don’t trust a receipt from a buyer because it can easily be a receipt for something else that they’ve Photoshopped to look like it was from you.
- Avoid this by using only Facebook Marketplace payments or PayPal.
Review the Community Standards of the Facebook Marketplace.
The Community Standards detail responsible buying and selling practices, as well as list items that are prohibited for sale in the Marketplace.
- Scammers may post a listing for items that are prohibited under Marketplace guidelines, pocketing your cash and never completing the transaction.
- Scammers also will often request payment or delivery of an item in a way that is outside the general guidelines. Using alternative means of payment or delivery gives you fewer protections as a buyer, which is why scammers try to steer you toward these methods.
Check out the seller’s profile.
One of the benefits Facebook Marketplace has over other online person-to-person sale and auction websites is that you must have a Facebook account to post a listing or buy an item. Checking the seller’s profile will help you determine whether the seller is legitimate or a possible scam artist.
- Keep in mind that a legitimate seller may have a lot of information that is restricted to friends only, but you might not get a lot of information from their public profile. However, you can still see their main profile picture and how long they’ve had a Facebook account.
- For example, if a seller only started their Facebook account the day before they posted the listing, they may be attempting to scam you.
Use Facebook Messenger cautiously.
Facebook allows you to talk to the seller using Facebook Messenger to negotiate a final price and close the sale. If you suspect the listing is fraudulent, be careful what you say to the seller.
- Avoid giving out any personal information. Don’t give the seller your bank account or credit card number over Facebook Messenger, or any other information the seller could potentially use to steal your identity.
- If the seller is claiming to be local but you don’t believe they are, you can ask them questions about local events or different neighborhoods to gauge their actual familiarity with the area.
- Use your best judgment and if you have a bad feeling in your gut after talking to them, shut down the transaction.
Pay only with secured payment systems.
If you’re completing the purchase online, payment systems such as PayPal offer you protection as a buyer in the event the seller does not deliver the item you purchase.
- Scam artists often will try to get you to pay with a money order, cash, or wire transfer. Avoid these methods of payment – even with local sellers – because if the seller runs off with your money, you won’t have any way to trace it or get it back.
- If a local seller wants cash, use your best judgment. Generally, a legitimate seller will not refuse a method of payment that you offer. Secured payment systems offer benefits and greater confidence to sellers as well.
Meet local sellers in a safe area.
The Facebook Marketplace originally was designed to be used primarily by people who lived in the same area. However, just because someone lives near you doesn’t mean they’re not going to scam you.
- Be wary of a seller who wants you to come to their house, or who wants to meet at night. Insist on making the exchange in a public place during daylight hours – especially if you are paying them in person.
- Many local police precincts will allow you to meet the person in their parking lot, or in the vestibule of the station. If you have this option available, it is the most secure place to meet a seller.
Accept only the exact purchase price.
In one common scam, the scam artist/buyer offers to pay you more for the item than you are asking. The scam artist then says you can mail them a check or money order for the difference.
- What actually happens here is that the scam artist’s payment fails, but they have already received the amount you reimbursed them for the “overpayment.” They may also have received the item as well.
- There is no legitimate reason a person would need to pay you more than your asking price for an item, expecting you to give them back the difference.
Look at the buyer’s profile.
If you want to buy an item on the Facebook Marketplace, you must have a Facebook profile. A legitimate buyer will have a robust profile, while a scam artist likely will have a skeletal profile created recently.
- Some users’ privacy settings may limit the amount of information you can glean from their profile. However, you’ll still be able to see their main profile picture and a general chronology of the profile itself.
Speak to the buyer on Facebook Messenger.
One advantage of the Facebook Marketplace is that it allows you to have a conversation with your buyer within Facebook. However, use caution if you suspect the buyer is a scammer.
- If the buyer claims to be local but you suspect they aren’t, ask them questions about local events or neighborhoods. Depending on their answers, you’ll know how familiar they actually are with the area.
- Don’t ignore gut feelings. If you feel like something just isn’t right, don’t be afraid to pull out of the transaction and call off the sale.
Limit acceptable methods of payment.
Secure payment systems offer protection for buyers as well as for sellers. Scam artists frequently will request to pay in some alternate way, such as by giving you gift cards.
- With the gift card scam, the gift cards typically have a zero balance, or were stolen and cannot be used.
- Money transfer services or wire services don’t provide any guarantee that the money will arrive, or give you any protection if you send the item and never receive payment.
Ship items domestically only.
Some scam artists will request that you ship the item they’ve purchased to another country. During the time it takes the item to arrive, their payment has already failed.
- The idea behind this scam is that you will see that you’ve been paid and go ahead and ship the item. Later, the payment fails, or the buyer’s check bounces, and it’s too late for you to reverse the shipment of the item.
- You can avoid this scam by stating clearly in your listing where you are willing to ship the item and refusing to deviate from this.
Meet local buyers in a well-lit, public location.
Local scam artists may try to steal from buyers, and they can take more than just the item you had listed for sale. Be especially wary if you are selling electronics, or smaller items that can be easily taken.
- Refuse to meet the buyer in a rundown location or seedy part of town and don’t meet up at night.
- Check with your local police precinct to see if you can meet your buyer in their parking lot or just inside the station. A scam artist/buyer who is intending to rob you or rip you off will balk at this location.
Report the item to Facebook.
The Facebook Marketplace has a simple, three-step process for reporting a listing that you believe is a scam, or that otherwise violates the Facebook Marketplace Community Standards.
- Go to the Marketplace and find the item you suspect is a scam. When you click on that post, you’ll see a link that says “Report Post” on the bottom right. Click that link and follow the instructions to make your report.
File a report with the FBI.
In the United States, you can report a Facebook Marketplace scam to the FBI using the Department’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). You can use this service if you live in the U.S., even if the scammer is elsewhere or you don’t know where the scammer lives. If you live outside the U.S., you can still file a report if you have reason to believe the scammer is located in the U.S.
- Go to the website at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx to learn more about the service and file your report. The information you provide will go into a database that is used by federal, state, and local law enforcement to identify patterns of fraudulent activity.
- Gather all the information you have about the person who posted the scam listing as well as the listing itself.
- While filing a report with the FBI does not mean that law enforcement will actively investigate your case specifically, it does help their efforts and may lead to additional evidence that helps stop the scammer.
Contact the local police.
Especially if the scammer appears to live in your local area, filing a police report may help authorities handle the situation. Keep in mind that someone who attempts to scam one person will likely attempt it again.
- If you’ve already reported to the IC3, you can provide that report to your local police. Bring all the information and documentation you have about the transaction, including a printout of any conversations you had with the scam artist through Facebook Messenger.
- Go to the police station in person to file your report. Do not call 911 or your country’s equivalent emergency number unless there is an actual emergency and you feel your life or safety is in immediate danger.
- Get a copy of the police report for your records. You may want to call the officer who filed the report after a week or two to follow up if you haven’t heard any news on the status of your case.
- You can use Facebook Marketplace on iPhone, Android or your desktop or laptop.