A great place to score a deal, Facebook Marketplace offers just about anything you can imagine. You can do business with sellers in your area offering local pickups or people across the country willing to ship you their items.
However, every seemingly great deal to be had on the site isn’t necessarily what meets the eye. Unfortunately, there are many scammers looking to take advantage of buyers who are a little too trusting.
“Facebook Marketplace is tricky because it’s really a free-for-all when it comes to buying and selling,” said Monica Eaton, founder of Chargebacks911. “You should use caution anytime you send or even receive money from someone who you do not know and may have never met.”
If you think you are the victim of a Facebook scam, she said there are multiple steps to take.
“First, contact your bank, or the system you used to pay — Venmo, PayPal” — she said. “You should also report the profile of the seller.”
The last thing you want is to purchase an item on Facebook Marketplace and either find out it’s not what you’re expecting or never receive it at all. Increase your chances of being a satisfied shopper by steering clear of these four categories.
1. Vacation Rentals
If you’re looking for a good, last-minute deal on a vacation rental and opt to find a spot on Facebook marketplace instead of a site like Airbnb or VRBO, Eaton said you could be at risk for fraud.
“In Florida, this is the time of year we start to see folks from up north migrate down here to enjoy our beautiful weather and beaches,” she said. “An increase in vacation rentals also means an increase in scams, though.”
Specifically, she said seemingly available waterfront homes posted for rent on Facebook Marketplace can be one of the easiest ways to scam people out of thousands of dollars.
“Fraudsters use photos found online or steal them from legitimate rental homes to post on Facebook Marketplace,” she said. “The price is normally listed below the market value to attract bargain-hunters.”
She said payment can be taken immediately through Facebook Marketplace, but once vacationers arrive at their destination, they discover the property is either already rented or nonexistent.
“By that time, the scammer is long gone — and so is the money,” she said.
Of course, this can turn a much-anticipated vacation into a financial nightmare. To avoid falling victim to a scammer, she said to be cautious of a vacation rental that seems priced far below market value.
“Yes, it might look like a great deal, but remember the old saying, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,'” she said. “This definitely applies here. Scammers don’t have to list their rental at the going rate because they just want to make a quick buck and then disappear.”
She said you also need to look at the profile of the lister to look for red flags.
“If everything is private, there’s no profile photo and communication is minimal or doesn’t make sense, those are signs that you are likely getting swindled,” she said.
Additionally, she said Facebook Marketplace doesn’t have protections in place as a travel site does.
“Once you pay the person on the other end of the transaction, you likely won’t be able to get your money back if something goes wrong,” she said. “So, while you might be able to snag a great deal, approach it with a ‘buyer beware’ attitude.”
2. Baby Items
The cost of baby clothes, toys and equipment can add up fast, and there’s no shortage of deals on Facebook Marketplace. However, this isn’t the place to stock up on supplies for your little one, said Alli Cavasino, co-founder and CEO of JoyLet, a baby and toddler gear rental platform.
“The problem with buying baby gear on Facebook from strangers is that you can never guarantee that the gear is safe, working or clean,” she said.
She said that purchasing baby items on Facebook Marketplace comes with several risks, including inadvertently acquiring counterfeit items.
“Counterfeit products can be for sale on unmonitored used marketplaces like Facebook,” she said. “When browsing sites like Facebook Marketplace for baby gear, it can be hard to tell if you’re purchasing from a reputable source.”
She said safety is also an issue, as recalls on baby products happen all the time.
“Just because a product is still for sale by a company today doesn’t mean that a batch of its products weren’t previously subject to a recall,” she said. “It can be difficult to tell if the specific product you’re buying has been recalled.”
Additionally, she said the cleanliness of baby items purchased can also be an issue.
“There’s no guarantee the products you are getting are clean and sanitized,” she said. “Just because a piece of gear can look clean to the naked eye doesn’t mean that there aren’t stains or germs lurking within the gear.”
3. Luxury Items
If you have a taste for luxury but don’t want to pay full price, you might browse Facebook Marketplace to see if you can find a deal on items such as handbags, watches and clothing. However, if the price seems too good to be true, it might be counterfeit.
A study conducted by social media analytics firm Ghost Data from June to October 2021 — and shared exclusively with Reuters — discovered more than 26,000 active counterfeiters’ accounts on Facebook.
Additionally, Reuters conducted a keyword search that spotlighted dozens of Facebook posts that seemingly promoted counterfeit goods. These posts were subsequently removed by Meta for violating its rules after they were flagged by Reuters.
In theory, buying a car on Facebook Marketplace can seem like a great way to avoid paying extra fees at a dealership or find a notably unique vehicle. However, it can also be an easy way for scammers to take advantage of you.
While Facebook offers Purchase Protection for certain transactions and items, vehicles are not covered. Conversely, eBay offers Vehicle Purchase Protection against certain types of fraud, up to the maximum purchase price paid or $100,000.
In March 2022, Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV reported on a story of a local woman who lost at least $1,000 after purchasing a Toyota on Facebook Marketplace that never arrived. The woman said she asked the seller a lot of questions, including having them send her the vehicle’s Carfax report, but ultimately became the victim of a scam.
Ultimately, Facebook Marketplace can be a great place to score a deal, so just use common sense when shopping. If anything seems off about the seller, the product or the price, trust your gut and move on to the next listing.
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