Common Facebook Marketplace Scams: Stay One Step Ahead

fake buyers on facebook marketplace

“Can I get scammed on Facebook Marketplace?” you might ask. The answer is yes, scams do exist on the platform. The high traffic and the broad audience that Facebook Marketplace provides make it an attractive platform for scammers.

Though Meta, Facebook’s parent company, hasn’t disclosed the number of complaints it has received regarding scammers or the extent of action taken against them, it revealed that in the fourth quarter of 2023 alone, the platform removed 691 million fake Facebook accounts.

An impressive list of complaints from Facebook Marketplace shoppers contained in the BBB Scam Tracker database proves that scammers continue to be a significant issue on the platform.

Our article aims to show how to identify and avoid common Facebook Marketplace scams. We’ll cover the red flags to look out for and the steps you can take to ensure your buying and selling experiences are secure.

Navigating Facebook Marketplace: The Reality of Scams

Facebook Marketplace, with its impressive base of over a billion monthly active users, is a hotbed for various scams. The appeal of Facebook Marketplace lies in its ability to connect local buyers and sellers, making the process of selling or buying items within a community easier and more cost-effective. This economical choice attracts a significant number of users, which unfortunately includes scammers. They exploit the prospect of finding good deals from local sellers, leading unsuspected users to sometimes overlook the associated risks.

The platform’s lack of moderation aids the prosperity of these scammers, allowing them to employ social engineering tactics and well-crafted scripts to trick victims.

Furthermore, con artists take advantage of the trust users have in the Facebook brand. This trust, combined with the potential for quick and easy transactions, contributes to the allure of utilizing Facebook Marketplace for fraudulent activities.

Identifying the Red Flags for Buyers

facebook marketplace fake buyers

Recognizing red flags is fundamental to protect yourself from scams on Facebook Marketplace. Some major red flags are too-good-to-be-true deals, suspicious seller profiles lacking pictures or previous listings, and unusual payment requests.

Sellers who try to take the conversation outside the official Facebook Messenger platform or refuse to meet in person should also raise concerns. Be aware that the risk of scams is heightened by Facebook Marketplace’s direct sales feature, with scammers tricking users into clicking malicious links to steal personal information.

Too-Good-To-Be-True Deals

Spotting deals that seem too good to be true is essential in avoiding scams. One common tactic for scammers is to falsely advertise high-value electronics at a low price only to sell broken or non-functional items.

Another deceptive sales tactic called “bait and switch” involves offering a product or service at an attractive price or with desirable features (the “bait”). However, once you are interested, the seller informs you that the advertised product is unavailable or of lower quality than expected. Then, they try to convince you to purchase a different, usually more expensive, item (the “switch”).

If you encounter any suspicious behavior, it’s best to trust your instincts and walk away.

Suspicious Seller Profiles

Fake Facebook accounts created for scams often have very few friends, no profile picture, or prior Marketplace activity. These scammers create new accounts to hide their identity and past behavior.

Long gaps in profile activity, inconsistent information, an unusually high number of friends, followers, or connections, especially if they appear to be fake or inactive accounts, and a high number of listings for brand new items at significantly discounted prices can all be indicators of a suspicious seller profile.

Before engaging with a seller, always verify their profile to check for a history of positive ratings, reviews, and consistent Marketplace activity.

Unusual Payment Requests

Scammers often request payment through untraceable methods such as wire transfers or gift cards. They may ask for an advance payment or a deposit with no intention of delivering the item. Wire transfers and gift cards are preferred payment methods by scammers because they are hard to trace and refunds are nearly impossible once the funds have been sent.

Be cautious of unusual payment methods and insist on using Facebook Checkout which can offer purchase protection.

Phony Product Giveaways

Phony giveaways on the Facebook Marketplace can be a front for scams, designed to harvest a user’s personal information or to infect their device with malware. Never give out personal information or payment details in response to online giveaways as legitimate giveaways do not require this information for entry or prize claims.

A lack of detailed terms and conditions is a warning sign of a fake giveaway — legitimate contests and promos typically provide clear rules and legal terms.

Rental Listing Frauds

Rental scams on Facebook Marketplace can display fake listings for properties that are not actually for rent or that ask for upfront payments or deposits. Before committing to a rental, it’s crucial to:

  1. Research the rental listing thoroughly. Look for red flags in the listing details, such as extremely low prices, generic photos, or a lack of specific information about the property or landlord.
  2. If possible, verify the identity of the landlord or property manager through official channels. You may search for their contact information online, check property records, or contact local rental agencies or associations for confirmation.
  3. Always insist on viewing the rental property in person before making any payments or signing any agreements. If the landlord refuses to allow you to see the property or makes excuses for why you can’t visit, it’s likely a scam.
  4. Avoid making any upfront payments or deposits without first verifying the legitimacy of the rental arrangement. Be cautious of landlords who request payment via wire transfer, money order, or other non-traceable methods.

Protecting Yourself as a Seller

facebook marketplace scams

Buyers on Facebook Marketplace are not just potential victims but can also be potential scammers, aiming to exploit sellers. They might create a false sense of urgency or insist on receiving an item before the payment has cleared to trick the seller. Make sure that any payments from buyers are legitimate and have been completed before handing over the item.

During in-person transactions, be vigilant against the risk of receiving counterfeit currency by always checking the money’s authenticity. Look out for buyers refusing to test or inspect the product before purchase as this may indicate an attempt to scam.

Overpayment and Refund Schemes

Overpayment scams occur when a scammer sends more money than the cost of the item and then requests a refund of the difference, hoping to trick the victim into sending back real money or goods before the original payment is discovered to be fraudulent. The scam typically involves using a fake check or digital payment to create an overpayment.

Always verify that the payment has cleared through your bank or payment provider before issuing a refund or shipping goods.

Prepaid Shipping Label Pitfalls

Scammers attempting to commit fraud on Facebook Marketplace often provide their own prepaid shipping labels to sellers. Buyers who insist on using a prepaid shipping label may be planning to redirect the package to an alternate address or otherwise obfuscate the destination to scam the seller.

Always maintain control over the shipping process when using a buyer’s prepaid label as it may lead to issues in proving delivery and complicate any disputes concerning item receipt.

Verification Code Cons

Verification code scams often start with a buyer asking to move the conversation from Facebook Marketplace to text messaging. Scammers trick users into sharing verification codes by claiming they need to verify the user’s identity or prove they are real before proceeding with a purchase. When sellers share verification codes, scammers can gain unauthorized access to accounts or set up new accounts such as a Google Voice number, linked to the victim’s phone number.

Always remember, never share verification codes from your phone with anyone.

Step-by-Step Guide to Reporting Scams on Facebook Marketplace

i got scammed on facebook marketplace what can i do

It’s important to report a scam on Facebook Marketplace, whether you are a report buyer or a report seller, as it helps prevent further fraudulent activities and protects the community. Facebook provides on-screen instructions to guide you through the process of reporting a buyer or seller scam.

Besides, take additional measures like contacting your bank to notify them of the fraudulent transaction and filing a report with your local law enforcement.

Documenting Your Case

Documenting all communication with the scammer, including messages and emails, is crucial for reporting the scam. Capture screenshots of the scammer’s profile, the listing, and any interactions to serve as evidence. Maintain a record of transaction details such as payment amounts and methods.

Having a detailed timeline of events helps authorities understand the scam, making it essential to document your case thoroughly.

Using Facebook’s Report Features

To report a potentially fraudulent buyer or seller on Facebook Marketplace, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to their profile.
  2. Click on the three dots at the top right corner.
  3. Choose “Find support or report profile.”

For reporting a questionable listing, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the item you want to report.
  2. Select “Report post” or “Report listing” from the three dots at the top right corner.

During the reporting process for both a profile or listing, users are prompted to specify the type of issue, such as scamming, and are encouraged to provide supporting details about the incident.

If the suspicious activity relates to a conversation with a buyer or seller, the “Something’s Wrong” feature in Messenger can be used to directly report it to Facebook.

When to Involve Authorities

In cases of serious financial loss or identity theft, report scams to:

  • Your local police department, especially if related to a substantial sum of money or serious criminal activity
  • The Federal Trade Commission in the United States, for significant fraud incidents
  • Federal authorities like the Internet Crime Complaint Center for scams encompassing interstate commerce, for an in-depth investigation

For scams involving counterfeit products or intellectual property theft, report to both law enforcement and the relevant industry organizations.

Preventative Measures: Secure Your Transactions

No one wants to fall victim to a scam, and the best defense is a strong offense. Here are some tips to enhance the security of your transactions:

  • Always meet in a public place for the exchange of goods.
  • When possible, bring a friend or inform someone about the transaction details for additional security.
  • Using Facebook Checkout for eligible purchases can provide you with purchase protection policies.
  • Encouraging buyers to use PayPal can offer fraud protection services.

Utilize antivirus software equipped with anti-phishing features to prevent scams that originate from fake giveaways, offering an additional safety net against malware. Be vigilant about the personal information you provide in response to Facebook Marketplace forms or giveaways, to maintain data privacy and avoid oversharing sensitive details.

Communication Best Practices

Facebook advises users to:

  • Ensure all contacts occur within Facebook Messenger to maintain transaction safety
  • Avoid exchanging personal phone numbers
  • Be wary of any messages or links that could redirect you away from Facebook as these may be phishing attempts to gather personal information

Always be skeptical of requests for personal information that could lead to unauthorized access to your accounts or personal data.

Smart Payment Strategies

To facilitate secure transactions and enhance user experience, Facebook has integrated its payment system called Facebook Pay. It provides a seamless and presumably secure payment experience, benefiting from Facebook’s security measures and encryption protocols.

Additionally, you can link your PayPal account to Facebook Marketplace. Using secure payment methods like PayPal, which offers buyer and seller protection, encryption, and two-factor authentication, can mitigate the risk of fraud. Steer clear of unsecured payment methods and avoid carrying large sums of cash to reduce the risk of being scammed.

Finalizing Deals With Confidence

Finalizing deals with confidence is the key to a successful transaction. Always ensure that you receive full payment at the time of exchange or employ a secure escrow service if advanced payments are needed to prevent scams.

Avoid shipping items before receiving full payment to mitigate the risks associated with non-payment after item delivery.

Summary

While Facebook Marketplace offers a convenient platform for buying and selling items, it’s essential to stay vigilant against scams. Recognizing the red flags, understanding the common scams, and implementing safe transaction practices can help protect you against potential fraud.

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, always remember to verify the authenticity of profiles, communicate securely, use safe payment methods, and report any suspicious activities to both Facebook and local authorities. With these measures in place, you can navigate Facebook Marketplace with confidence and security.

FAQ

How do you know if a seller is scamming you?

If a seller asks for personal information, requests quick funds, or presents an unusually good deal, they may be trying to scam you. Be cautious when dealing with sellers who exhibit these behaviors.

What are some common Facebook Marketplace scams?

Be cautious of too-good-to-be-true deals, non-delivery scams, overpayment and refund schemes, phony product giveaways, and rental listing frauds when using Facebook Marketplace to protect yourself from common scams.

Does the platform protect you if you get scammed on Facebook Marketplace?

Yes, Facebook offers Purchase Protection on its Marketplace platform, which covers situations like not receiving your order or receiving a damaged or different product. This protection is free and automatically covers eligible orders.

Can you get your money back if scammed on Facebook Marketplace?

Yes, you can get your money back if scammed on Facebook Marketplace by contacting your bank for advice and potentially filing a Purchase Protection claim with Facebook. If approved, you may receive a refund for the full purchase price and any shipping costs.

However, in some situations, refunds for scams can be challenging, especially if transactions occurred outside of Facebook’s platform or if there’s insufficient evidence to support a dispute.

How can you avoid Facebook Marketplace scams?

To avoid scammers on Facebook Marketplace, verify profiles, communicate securely within Facebook Messenger, use safe payment methods, and report any suspicious activities.

As an additional protective measure, you can cross-check the information provided by buyers or sellers with Nuwber’s database of more than 300 million US citizens. This can help prevent potential scams and fraudulent transactions.

Eugene Kirdzei
Eugene Kirdzei

Chief Technical Officer at Nuwber
With nearly two decades of experience in the IT industry, Eugene possesses comprehensive knowledge across his professional field, including in data management, data protection, and information search. Through his writing, he aims to provide valuable insights and practical advice on how to safely explore the online environment and leverage digital tools to enhance people’s lives.