How to avoid Facebook marketplace scams

Facebook Marketplace scams header

For all its faults, Facebook remains one of the most popular online social media platforms globally.

People still use Facebook for all sorts of things, from communicating with friends and family to engaging with their favourite football team, TV show, or politicians.

In more recent times, this has extended into buying and selling too.

Facebook has introduced the Facebook marketplace, which can be a great place to buy and sell goods in much the same time and same way as you might on sites like eBay, Gumtree, and Craigslist.

But, as with all of those sites, there are risks involved in using Facebook Marketplace, most of which revolve around Facebook Marketplace scams.

While Facebook doesn't have many options to help their users stay safe when using the Marketplace, we are and in this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about how to avoid common Facebook Marketplace scams, plus more.

Ready to trade securely? Keep scrolling down.

What is Facebook Marketplace?

Facebook Marketplace is one of the sites more recent innovations and was founded in 2016.

As the name suggests, it is a marketplace where Facebook profile users can post just about anything for online sales and also search for items they might want to buy.

If you want to buy something, you contact the seller using Facebook Messenger and negotiate a price you are both happy with.

Unlike some sites of this type, Facebook does not facilitate a wire transfer and advance payments. Instead, the buyer and seller either meeting directly to exchange cash for the item, or they agree to process payment via a third-party payment model such as PayPal.

Stats

According to Propublica, Facebook Marketplace has over 1 billion users.

Lots of Facebook Marketplace users are very happy with the buying and selling they undertake on the site. But as with all online marketplaces that adopt a light-touch regulation, there are also plenty of users who abuse the system and spoil it for the rest of us.

Top 10 scams on Facebook marketplace

Sadly, there are no shortage of scammers using Facebook Marketplace to try and con money out of other unsuspecting users.

So, what are the most common scams you should look out for? Here is a quick rundown of the top Facebook Marketplace scams:

1. Counterfeit / Bootleg items

Many common marketplace scams involve sellers who can post as much information and as many images of an item as they like and this means it is quite easy to pass off counterfeit items as the real thing to Facebook users.

That means that you can end up paying way over the odds for an item that is not genuine and not manufactured to a particularly high quality.

2. Broken items

It is also not unknown for people to advertise something on Facebook Marketplace as fully functioning but when it arrives, you find that it is broken or not working.

Some people see Facebook Marketplace as a place to dispose of broken items for a quick profit and it is the buyer that loses out.

3. ‘Bait and Switch' scams

This type of scam sees the seller advertising a high quality item at what is often a great discounted price.

But when you approach the seller, this item will mysteriously no longer be available and you will be offered either a similar product for a higher price or a lower quality product.

4. ‘Accidental Overpayment' scams

This scam involves sellers claiming to have overpaid using a fake screenshot and then asking their buyers to pay back the “extra” amount that exceeded the market price.

After which, they will ghost the buyer and walk away with their profit. Do not accept overpayment claims until you can check the matters for yourself.

5. Gift Card Scams

This scam involves a seller asking a buyer to make payment in gift cards.

These payments are anonymous and untraceable and as soon as payment is made, the seller ghosts the buyer and disappears with the money.

6. QR Code Scams

In this scam, a buyer will ask a seller to scan a QR code, usually under the pretext of ensuring that the buyer has the correct account. But instead, the seller gets charged money which the buyer then walks off with.

7. Early mailing

A scam buyer may try and encourage a seller into mailing items before payment has been made, coming up with all sorts of elaborate reasons why they need the item quickly.

But once the item is mailed, it is gone and there is no guarantee that payment will ever be made.

8. Fake listings

Fake or fraudulent listing is quite common for high-value items like cars and property rentals.

These may be to try and scam money out of people but more often they are a means of phishing for personal information that will then either be sold or used to steal from you in further phishing scams or even lead to identity theft.

Similar issues are encountered when it comes to advertising fake giveaways.

9. Fake accounts

Fake accounts are a common problem on Facebook generally and are increasingly an issue on Facebook Marketplace too.

They are used as part of scams to steal data, obtain stolen credit cards details, or to sell non-existent items for your hard-earned cash.

They are particularly common for things like gig tickets which buyers are often desperate to get hold of and will skip due diligence if a chance arises.

Meanwhile, everything about them is false, from the fake name to fake address, photo, and more.

10. Robbery

A lot of Facebook Marketplace transactions will conclude with a face-to-face meeting to exchange money for the item being sold.

Sadly, an increasing number of these local pickup meetings end up with one party being robbed of their items or money, assaulted, or even worse.

Learn More

In 2021, a US woman was murdered after meeting to sell a Playstation 4 in a robbery gone wrong. (source)

It is quite a common scam type. Be on the lookout for anyone who wants to meet in their own house, after dark, or in a dodgy location.

How to Avoid Being Scammed on Facebook Marketplace

Having read through all ten of those common scams, you might be thinking you'd be best never to use Facebook Marketplace again.

But you don't have to be that extreme.

Just follow some simple rules to help you stay safe if you wish to sell or buy online:

1. Be diligent

When buying an item, be diligent. Don't rush into deals but instead, make sure you have all the information you need.

Ask for more pictures and videos of items working if you are unsure about them. If a seller is genuine, they should have no reason to object, just like all other sellers.

2. Don't use unusual payment methods

Stick to tried and tested payment methods such as Paypal, Facebook Checkout service, and cash.

Avoid connecting your bank account to payments methods you don't know and stick to Facebook Checkout, especially if they involve handing over personal details that may endanger your online privacy.

One in particular to watch out for is Venmo, a mobile payment processor closely linked to scams.

If you are using Pay pal, never click the friends and family payment option. This might save the seller a fee but it will also prevent you from claiming a refund and disappearing with the money if things go wrong.

3. Check your buyers/sellers account

Before you agree a deal, be sure to do due diligence on your buyer's or sellers account to make sure it isn't a fake.

If it looks like a new account, with minimal activity, a recent set-up date, and a lack of personal posts and information, assume the worst and don't do business with them.

4. Always meet in a well-lit public location

If you agree to meet with a buyer/seller to complete a deal, make sure it is in a place that is well lit, ideally covered by CCTV cameras, and in an area where lots of people are coming and going.

If you are meeting with a legitimate buyer, things should go without issues.

Learn More

In Chicago, United States, a man was left shaken after agreeing to meet to sell a phone but was instead robbed at gunpoint. (source)

If not, this will minimize the risk of you being attacked and robbed, or worse. And, if your buyer/seller refuses to meet in such a location, then you know that they were planning something else.

5. Never ship an item before you receive payment

If you are selling, always make sure you have received payment before you ship an item.

As soon as you have posted an item, the buyer has no incentive to complete payment and there isn't much you can do to get your item back or end up receiving money.

6. Keep a healthy amount of scepticism when shopping on Facebook Marketplace

The old adage that if a deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is applies every bit as much to Facebook Marketplace as anywhere else.

Don' be lured in by deals that look amazing because they are more likely to be scams.

7. Keep records

Whether you are buying or selling on Facebook Marketplace, be sure to keep as much information about your transactions as you can.

That means you should keep records of Messenger conversations, receipts of shipments, and all details you have about your buyer/seller.

If you do encounter problems, the more information you have, the easier it will be to resolve it.

What to do if you've been scammed on Facebook Marketplace

If you have been scammed out of a large sum of money while buying or selling items, you should report potential buyers/sellers immediately to your local area police station or local law enforcement body.

This might result in the guilty party's capture, and you could help prevent scams in the future.

If you choose to do things through Facebook, they have recently introduced their own Purchase Protection scheme, which lets you claim a refund due to online scams in the following circumstances:

  • You don't receive your purchase.
  • The product arrives damaged or different than described on the listing.
  • The seller doesn't follow their stated refund policy.
  • The purchase was unauthorized.

A refund can be requested after three days if you are an individual seller and three days if you are a store. Buyers can contact Facebook at any time.

To contact Facebook to use their Purchase Protection, you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Log in to Facebook
  2. Click on the dropdown menu
  3. Choose Settings & Privacy
  4. Then Settings
  5. Select Facebook Pay
  6. Under ‘Activity' click See All
  7. Select the order you have problems with
  8. Click Get Help With Your Order
  9. Fill out the form.
  10. Click Send.

Facebook pay activity

Facebook will then review the transaction and contact you with their decision. This might take a few days.

You can also report buyer or a seller to Facebook. To do this, all you need to do is:

  1. Log in to Facebook.
  2. Open Marketplace
  3. Click on the listing you have a problem with
  4. Click on the Sellers/Buyers name
  5. Click Report post
  6. Enter as many details as you can about the issue you have with the seller

This option may not be available in all countries so be sure to check before buying.

Should you give out your phone number on Facebook marketplace?

No. A lot of scammers are looking to harvest personal information and your phone number is a highly prized target.

Keep all communication to Facebook Messenger.

Taking things off Facebook to continue communication is also a well known tactic employed by scammers.

Top Tips

The UK's Hampshire police warn to be diligent after a 20-year old was robbed when selling an iPhone and Apple watch. (source)

How do you catch a scammer on Facebook marketplace?

On top of all the suggestions above, our best advice is to use your common sense.

Look at deals carefully and if they seem too good to be true or have some other red flag, assume the worst. Always do due diligence on items and people you interact with on Facebook Messenger to make sure that it is the real deal, and if you have any doubts at all, just walk away.

Red flags are numerous if you know what to look for in a potential buyer or seller. Many of them do not appear when you are dealing with a real person, such as massive spelling errors, invitations to pay via suspicious payment methods, or to pay for an item that you did not even see.

Summary

Facebook Marketplace can be a great place to buy and sell items. But be careful not to fall victim to scam artists.

We have outlined some of the common ways for you to keep your eyes out for and given some top tips on the best ways to stay safe on Facebook Marketplace.

The best rule is to use your common sense and trust your instincts. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. And if the seller's profile/Facebook account looks dodgy, again, it probably is.

If you're looking to access Facebook securely anywhere, check out our guide to the top VPNs for Facebook.

Author: David Spencer

Cyber-security & Technology Reporter, David, monitors everything going on in the privacy world. Fighting for a less restricted internet as a member of the VPNCompare team for over 5 years.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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