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Meta’s consumer-to-consumer buying and selling platform, Facebook Marketplace, has quickly risen to widespread popularity after its 2016 launch. Because buyers and sellers connect using their personal Facebook accounts, it can make for higher-quality interactions than the anonymous Craigslist. However, that isn’t stopping scammers from doing what they do best – scamming.
Recent research showed that 1 in 6 respondents had been scammed on Facebook Marketplace. Now that Marketplace has proliferated to the masses, newcomers are trying out the feature. These users, and veterans alike, are prime targets for scammers.
Now that Facebook Marketplace has expanded listing types to cover property rentals and even home sales, it’s more important than ever to stay keen on typical Marketplace scams.
Common Scams on Facebook Marketplace
There are a few key types of scams that pop up again and again on Facebook Marketplace. Here are some examples:
Fake Facebook Accounts
Fake or hacked Facebook accounts have long been used to harvest money and personal information from unsuspecting individuals. Now that Facebook has created a tool that incentivizes giving people money, it’s become a new cash cow for scammers.
The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of the signs that an account may not be legitimate. For example, a profile with little to no account details and very few posts is probably a fake.
Even accounts with posts on them may be operated by a scammer who has stolen someone’s account.
If the profile doesn’t look like someone you’d want to be friends with, it’s your best bet to stay weary as the conversation continues.
Malicious mail Scams
For years, email has been a common way for scammers to try and steal sensitive information. A scammer will message you on Facebook asking about a product that they want to buy. The scammer will say they’ll pay you in advance, but that the payment service (be it Venmo, PayPal, etc.) will require your email address for confirmation.
So far, so good – right? Typically, these services do require a phone number or email address for payment to be processed between strangers.
The scammer is going to use your email address to send a message to your inbox that looks like it’s from the payment service. The message will say that there was a problem with processing the payment and ask for your bank account/credit card number to finish the transaction.
The email may also demand that you ship the item before you’re allowed to receive payment.
Once you’ve given away your personal banking information, the scammer has what they need to clean out your account. If you’ve shipped off your item without being paid, it’s gone for good!
Look out for money order scams
The money order is an oldie but a goodie that may trip up sellers who are more accustomed to digital banking. Here are some typical money order schemes:
In this type of scam, the thief sends a fake money order to purchase your merchandise. You send them the goods, and by the time you realize the payment is no good, they’ve already got your stuff. This is most commonly used with items that are easy to resell, like phones and other electronic devices. Typically, these scams involve shipment to private P.O. boxes.
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from this type of fraud. First, make sure you’re only dealing with reputable buyers. If someone contacts you out of the blue and offers to buy your item sight unseen, that’s a red flag.
You should also insist on being paid via a method that offers some buyer/seller protection, like PayPal.
The scammer will send you a check that’s larger than the agreed-upon amount. They’ll say it was an accident and ask you to wire them back the difference.
If you’ve sent the excess money promptly, you’ll find out from your bank a few days later that the check was fake – and you’re out both the item and your cash. As if it couldn’t get worse, you’ll likely be hit with a pricey bank fee.
These types of person-to-person transactions aren’t protected, so you’re on your own if things go awry.
Paying for, or shipping an item in advance
Generally, in-person meetups are the best and safest way to ensure you’re getting exactly the product you want on Facebook Marketplace. However, the built-in shipping option enables you to send and receive goods with a verified checkout process.
As a general rule, stick to the in-app features.
Taking things off Facebook will leave you operating on the goodness of others’ hearts (which can be fleeting). By using the built-in shipping features, it’s a simple and secure process:
- Place a shipping order, an authorization is held until you receive the item
- The seller ships the item and uploads the tracking number for you
- The item is received. The seller is paid either 5 days after the buyer confirms it arrived, or 15-20 days after it was shipped.
What to do if you get scammed on Facebook Marketplace
Report fraud to Facebook
If you’re the victim of a Marketplace scam, your first step should be to file a report with Facebook. You can do this by going to the listing in question and clicking on the three dots in the top right corner. From there, select “report” and follow the instructions.
This will flag the listing for Facebook’s review and take it down, preventing anyone else from getting scammed.
File a police report
You should also file a police report, especially if the amount of money lost is significant. This could help create a paper trail that may come in handy if the scammer tries to pull the same thing on someone else.
Get in touch with your bank
If you provided your banking information to the scammer, you should contact your bank immediately and let them know what happened. They may be able to help you recover any funds that have been stolen and put a stop to any unauthorized transactions.
Steer clear of taking any retaliatory measures. Although a lot of them are petty scammers, you don’t know what an online stranger is capable of doing.
5 safety tips for interacting on Facebook Marketplace
- It’s not a drug deal, so it shouldn’t feel like one! Don’t go to someone’s house, and don’t invite them to yours. Pick a spot like a coffee shop, rest stop, or well-lit parking lot during business hours.
- Only use verified and insured payment methods. This means sticking to the in-app payment options, using a secure credit card, or PayPal. Do not give someone your banking or card information, and don’t accept money orders.
- Don’t send two-factor authentication codes. 2FA codes have long been used to swindle unsuspecting Facebook users into giving hackers unfettered access to their personal online accounts.
- Check buyer/seller ratings. If someone has a lot of bad reviews, move on to someone else.
- Inspect items before purchasing. If you plan to accept a shipped item, feel free to ask the seller for more detailed photos or a video demonstrating the product. This also serves as great evidence in case something arrives broken or inaccurate.
By following these simple tips, you can help keep yourself safe while using Facebook Marketplace. With a little bit of caution, you can avoid becoming the victim of a scam. And if you do fall victim to a scam, don’t beat yourself up – it happens to more people than you might think.