If you are looking to sell some of your stuff or find a great deal on someone else’s stuff, Facebook Marketplace provides an easy way to connect with buyers and sellers in your community and, in some cases, scammers. Here’s a guide to some of the most common Facebook Marketplace scams — and how you can protect yourself as both a buyer and a seller.
Identifying Facebook Marketplace Scams
How can you tell if someone is scamming you on Facebook Marketplace? You may be dealing with a scammer if you spot any of the following red flags:
- A buyer or seller with a brand new profile or without a Facebook profile photo.
- A too-good-to-be-true price for a high-ticket item.
- A buyer wanting to pay by gift card or send you a prepaid shipping label.
- A buyer who “accidentally” overpays for an item or wants to pay quickly.
- A seller or buyer requesting personal information from you, such as your phone number or email address or wishing to communicate with you outside of Facebook.
How Do Facebook Marketplace Scams Work?
Scammers have devised many ways to defraud Facebook Marketplace users, and each scam works differently. Generally, buyer scams occur when someone tries to buy or trade for an item without paying. With seller scams, someone offers something for sale but doesn’t come through with an item as promised.
How You Can Get Scammed as a Buyer on Facebook Marketplace
Fraudulent sellers attempt everything from selling counterfeit and broken goods to posting fake rental properties. Before making a Facebook Marketplace purchase, familiarize yourself with these scams.
A Deal Too Good To Be True
Did you see a listing for the latest popular Nike shoes, for example, at a fraction of the retail price? The shoes probably are counterfeit.
Ask to see multiple photos of the shoes, a live video or even an original sales receipt before agreeing to buy. Pay with PayPal or another method that provides protection in case they are counterfeit.
A Fake Rental Property
The house advertised might be just what you’re looking for, but don’t send a deposit until you, or someone you trust, has had a chance to tour the place to make sure it is as advertised — and it’s available.
Scammers will advertise properties that aren’t even for rent, take a payment and vanish.
A Broken Item
That gaming system you just paid $200 for? It doesn’t work, even though the listing might have said it was barely used. You handed over that $200 to the seller at your meeting place in the parking lot of the local McDonald’s without plugging it in. And you’ll never find that seller on Facebook again.
It’s best to turn on and test electronics or other items that might not work before you hand over payment.
Bait and Switch
Advertising one item, then seeking to substitute it is the classic bait and switch. You see an item you’ve been searching and searching for, then the seller tells you it isn’t available and offers another, more expensive item in its place.
Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal if it’s not what you originally wanted.
If you see an offer for something free or a drawing for a free item, skip it. It likely is a phishing scheme. You hit a link to enter the drawing, and malware or a virus could be downloaded to access your confidential information.
How You Can Get Scammed as a Seller on Facebook Marketplace
Marketplace buyers aren’t the only ones susceptible to scams. You can get scammed by a buyer on Facebook Marketplace in a few ways. A fraudulent buyer may trick you with a prepaid shipping label, a verification code or an overpayment.
Here is a closer look at how these scams work and how to avoid fraudulent buyers when selling on Facebook Marketplace.
Prepaid Shipping Labels and Lost Packages
Beware of any buyer who asks if they can supply you with a prepaid shipping label. The label will be legitimate, but once you ship the item, the buyer can request to have the item delivered to a different address than the one on the original shipping label. Then, they will claim that the package was never received.
Some buyers skip the prepaid label scam and simply try to claim their bought items were never received and then seek a refund from the honest person in the transaction — you — per Facebook’s Purchase Protection Policy.
Make sure you never use a prepaid shipping label from a buyer and have tracking information for any shipments involved to help fend off these scams.
Phone Number Requests
A “buyer” wants you to send a text to arrange an immediate pickup of the item. That’s an attempt to get your phone number, at which point the scammer could register quickly for a Google voice number, which will trigger a verification code sent to your phone. The scammer will ask you to send the code — just to verify you are a real person.
In reality, that code will unlock the Google voice number, which can help the scammer to perpetuate more scams, including stealing your identity.
Don’t communicate with buyers outside of the Marketplace.
Say the buyer and seller agree on a $20 sales price, but the buyer pays $50, tells the seller it was an error and asks for $30 back. That isn’t a problem until the bank catches up with you. The card that the seller used to pay you could have been stolen or a check was counterfeit. You’re out the original payment — plus the “overpayment” you returned.
It’s best to decline overpayments and ask the buyer to resend payment in the correct amount.
You can encounter scammers on any online selling platform, including Facebook Marketplace. The key takeaways to remember:
- Keep all communication on Facebook.
- Be wary of buyers and sellers with brand new profiles or who have unusual transaction requests.
- Stick with payment methods covered by Facebook’s Purchase Protection Policy.
- Keep records of any shipped items.
- Trust your gut and steer clear of any transaction that makes you even slightly suspicious.
- Finally, stay up-to-date on current Facebook Marketplace scams.
With all of this in mind, you should be able to successfully buy and sell through the platform without worry.
Andrea Norris contributed to the reporting for this article.
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- Reader's Digest. 2022. "14 Facebook Marketplace Scams to Watch Out For"
- Aura. 2023. "Did You Get Scammed On Facebook Marketplace?"
- Better Business Bureau. 2022. "BBB Scam Alert: Crafty new scam targeting Facebook Marketplace sellers."
- Hootsuite. 2023. "42 Facebook Statistics Marketers Need to Know in 2023."