As much as we would like to think that the world is full of good people who want to sell you something fairly on Facebook, it’s just not reality. The Facebook Marketplace can be both a place to find awesome prices on great products and an equally dangerous place full of people looking to scam you. Avoiding these scams can often be hard, especially if you are not aware of some early warning signs. With this list, you’ll not only know how to avoid being scammed on Facebook Marketplace but what to do if it happens.
What Is Facebook Marketplace?
Founded in 2016, It’s best to think of Facebook Marketplace as Craiglist but on Facebook and with your real identity (hopefully) attached. As of April 2021, Facebook indicated on an earnings call that more than 1 billion users of its network used Marketplace, 250 million of which are monthly users. What helps differentiate Marketplace over the likes of Craigslist and eBay is more direct interaction and conversation. Everything from local pay and pickup to shipping is offered, the latter of which uses Facebook Checkout, which is part of Facebook’s Purchase Protection.
Types of Facebook Marketplace Scams
1. Counterfeit Items
Unfortunately, sometimes a good deal is too good of a deal. In those cases, Marketplace shoppers should be aware of counterfeit items. A counterfeit item is a fake copy of a real product that is being sold as the “real deal.” These items can include fake designer clothing, electronics, cosmetics, perfumes, etc.
If something is available for a price far less than it should reasonably cost, there is absolutely good reason to be hesitant. To help avoid getting a counterfeit item, you should request serial numbers, additional pictures and other forms of proof. A lot of fakes are nearly identical to the real thing and are hard to distinguish. In these instances, make sure you are buying from someone who has a verified history, good reviews and guarantees orders with a no-hassle return.
Yet another familiar tactic with scammers is the old bait-and-switch technique. Essentially, this scam occurs when a seller hooks or lures you in with a high-quality product at a decent price, only to find out the product isn’t available. It’s at that point the seller tries to sell you a different product, likely at a higher price as well as lower quality.
Ultimately, you end up with a deal that is nowhere near as attractive as what you originally thought. Unfortunately, you will not know a sale is a bait-and-switch until you are in the moment. If you see any signs of the seller being inconsistent, walk away!
3. Strange Payment Methods
While the best option is Facebook Checkout or PayPal to make payments, sometimes a seller will ask you to pay using unusual payment methods. In the event of a seller asking you to pay in the form of gift cards, they can easily take your money and never deliver a product. Unfortunately, these types of scams leave no recourse for the buyer, so be extra cautious around your payment methods.
In the case of PayPal, be sure to never use “Friends and Family” as the type of payment. Your seller may claim they want to help you avoid fees, but this method also leaves little room for recourse, and it’s also against PayPal’s terms of service. Venmo is also one to be cautious about, as immediate payments also leave little room for recourse, leaving you without your money and with no product. Stick to Facebook Checkout and the appropriate payment method for PayPal so that you have Facebook’s Purchase Protection available should you need to avail yourself.
4. Advance Payments
On the subject of payments, it’s important as a buyer or seller that you never pay in advance or take payment in advance, especially if you are planning to do a local pickup. There is a good chance that anyone looking to scam as a buyer will never show up with the item and you will not be able to contact them thereafter.
If you are agreeing to meet in person, agree to a public place and an electronic payment while you are together. Cash may seem like a logical choice for in-person meetings, but a lot can go wrong with cash payments in person, up to and including robbery. Ultimately, the best way to avoid this is to agree to a form of payment ahead of time – one that has Purchase Protection from Facebook.
5. Car Deposit Scams
As demand for used cars has increased, there is no shortage of sellers using Facebook’s Marketplace to reach potential buyers. Those who would use the service are using car deposit scams to bilk people out of their money. In these cases, the seller is usually asking you for a deposit that guarantees you can hold the car until you can meet and process the remaining payments.
Unsurprisingly, after making this deposit, the seller and the car disappear. Alternatively, the seller may give you a fake address as a meeting place, but you think everything is going smoothly.
To avoid such a scam, only buy a car from a reputable dealer. Run a car plate check to make sure the care is legitimate. And again, only agree to an electronic form of payment in person that uses Purchase Protection.
6. Fake Accounts
Fake accounts are very common on Facebook, and this makes things worse in the Marketplace.
In these cases, check the length of time the account has been around. If the seller’s account is relatively new, not showing a proper profile photo, littered with spelling errors, etc., these are red flags. You can also look at the person’s profile to see if they have missing profile data, low or no friends, or other missing info. If you don’t trust the profile, don’t ever enter into a deal with them.
7. Fake Giveaways
Exercise plenty of caution when you came across a giveaway that just seems too easy. These are usually instances where someone is giving away a cruise, fake cryptocurrency, fake coupons, etc.
If you are clicking on a link, there is a likelihood you could be taken to a bad web page where your sensitive data is at risk or already compromised. If a giveaway requires too much personal information, that too is a giant red flag that something is wrong.
8. Refuses to Engage
For most people buying or selling on Facebook Marketplace, using Messenger is the best (and easiest) communication tool. A red flag should go up if a seller refuses to engage over Messenger. If they try to direct you to another website to complete a purchase or have a “vacation” message up on Messenger, run away quickly.
The ultimate goal is to try and move you away from any “safe haven” where you would have Facebook’s protection as part of your purchase. As is the case with most of these scams, when something seems or feels suspicious, that’s a good indicator that you should drop contact and move. If someone tries to move the conversation to a different platform, it’s okay to be hesitant and ask that the conversation stay on Facebook where that communication can be used in the event there is an issue with any sale.
9. Shipping Difficulty
There are multiple scams that can be the result of shipping but one big flag is to watch out for anyone who asks for payment outside of Facebook Checkout. Many people and companies can set up e-commerce stores on Marketplace and ship items to customers who use Facebook Checkout.
When this happens, you are covered with Purchase Protection. If you are the seller, make sure you receive payment ahead of shipping, and if you are the buyer, make sure you get a legitimate tracking number. Depending on the time of year, tracking numbers can take a day or two to populate. That said, if a shipping label doesn’t populate after 24 hours, you are well within your rights to contact the seller and ask for additional info, such as a receipt that shows proof of tracking.
10. Do Not Accept Overpayment
As often as buyers are the ones on the receiving end of a scam, sellers are vulnerable as well. One such case is when a buyer overpays for a product or item. In some cases, the buyer will pay with counterfeit funds and overpay the seller.
In this case, they will ask for a refund, gaining legitimate currency while the original payment is flagged for being fraudulent. Sellers can protect themselves by denying overpayments as well as using Facebook-approved payment methods like PayPal and Facebook Checkout. As has been noted multiple times above, using Facebook Checkout is the absolute best path with any payment to ensure Purchase Protection.
11. Broken Products
Like counterfeit items, another big scam is broken products. In these cases, pictures show what appears to be working, properly built product, but the buyer receives broken products. It’s important to note that a picture, however legitimate, may not necessarily reflect true reality.
For the scammer, it’s also easy to send a product that is not the one that is shown as part of the Marketplace offer. Unlike counterfeit items, these are likely real products, albeit non-functioning ones. Avoiding this can be tough because you may not be sent what is pictured. The best way to protect yourself is only to buy items from sellers that have a strong review history, are open and transparent if you ask for additional photos, etc.
You Have Been Scammed, Now What?
As much as Facebook works to manage its own Marketplace to discover and remove scams, they cannot catch everything. If you have been scammed, contact Facebook immediately, and depending on the dollar amount, contact law enforcement as well. Make sure one of your initial steps is to capture all of the relevant transaction information, including name, picture, profile, picture of the product, any Messenger conversations, etc.
Report a Seller
If you believe a seller has scammed you and/or violated Facebook Marketplace policies, report them via desktop:
- From your News Feed, click on the Marketplace icon in the left menu.
- Click on the listing from the seller you want to report and the name of the seller.
- Click on the “three dots” menu and “Report Seller,” then follow the rest of the on-screen instructions.
Report a Buyer
- Using similar steps as above, locate Marketplace in your News Feed via Facebook desktop in the menu on the left.
- Click on “Your Account -> Your Listings.”
- Locate and click on the listing a buyer purchased. You will want to locate the messages between you and the buyer, but if you can’t see the message, click on “See More.”
- Click on the “three dots” or ellipses, then again on “Report Buyer. Follow the rest of the on-screen instructions.
Whether you are the seller or the buyer, it’s critical that you understand Facebook’s Purchase Protection policies. These policies outline the specific waiting periods and processes you need to follow to utilize Facebook’s help resolving any Marketplace issue. These policies include but are not limited to understanding that purchase protection only extends up to $2,000, including tax and shipping, and that you have a lifetime coverage limit of $10,000. The policies also ensure that you file a claim within 45 days as the buyer if you have not received a product.
Ultimately, Purchase Protection should be utilized if one of the four following criteria has been met:
- You have not received an order, especially after payment has been made.
- The seller or merchant does not provide a stated refund policy.
- Any purchase was unauthorized.
- A product arrives damaged or different than what was described in the original listing (which you should capture with screenshots).
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is there anyone trustworthy in Facebook Marketplace I can buy from with confidence?
Yes, absolutely! Don’t let this article lead you down a path that you think everyone is trying to scam you. Far from it, and it’s likely safe to say that the majority of both buyers and sellers are legitimate. Unfortunately, there are bad actors who help give every marketplace, whether on Facebook, eBay, Craigslist, etc. a bad name.
2. How can I feel comfortable meeting someone in public if they live locally?
Ideally, you would only meet someone at a public place that has a lot of foot traffic, like a Starbucks, grocery store, etc. However, in many cities, especially in the U.S., police stations have parking spaces for local meetups and also allow transactions to take place in their lobby. This is about as safe as it can get for conducting a local pickup or sale.
3. Are there any other safe payment methods outside of PayPal or Facebook Pay?
If you want to be as safe and protected as possible with your money or your product, you should stick to either of these two payment methods. Gift cards, cash payments and Venmo come with significantly increased risk and could leave you fighting to recover your money or the item you sold. Creating PayPal and Facebook Pay accounts are both free, so there is no reason you should be hesitant about either one.
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