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Facebook marketplace scams explained

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  • 10 min read
A person browsing through Facebook on a laptop.

A woman was keen on receiving a ready-built shipping container office she had purchased from Facebook Marketplace for £3,600. She received official-looking invoices with bank details from the seller, and when she proceeded to transfer the money, the details seemed to have matched with a business bank account. But she never received her order. This is the story of one of the many scams on Facebook Marketplace.

An online marketplace on Meta’s Facebook, sellers can post listings for all kinds of products, from apparel to rented apartments on Facebook Marketplace. Buyers can choose a product of their liking, start a conversation with the seller via the message feature available, and proceed to checkout after agreeing to buy the product.

There are a few ways in which the buyer can receive the purchased item. The product can be picked up from the seller’s location, the buyer and seller can meet up at a public spot to make the trade, or the seller can ship the product to the seller.

With most online marketplaces that connect local buyers and sellers for peer-to-peer sales, users may be subjected to scams despite regulatory efforts taken by the marketplaces to make them as safe as possible. What users can do to protect themselves is to know how to identify scams. Here are some of the popular Facebook Marketplace scams explained.


The most common Facebook Marketplace scams to look out for

Scammers can target both buyers and sellers through various tactics. Let’s look at 12 such tactics to avoid being scammed.

Counterfeit products

The buyer posts product images of a seemingly original, usually high-ticket item, like luxury bags, watches or shoes. The seller buys the product only to find it is a knock-off once shipped. Since counterfeit products are not allowed to be sold as per Marketplace’s policies, the sellers could upload images of the original product but send a counterfeit product instead. The items could be priced lower than the market asking price for the product, which fools the buyers into thinking that they have an excellent deal and encourages them to purchase.


Fake tickets

The marketplace is a common place for people to look for sold-out tickets for sporting events, concerts and theatre shows. Scammers create fake tickets and either send them to the buyer as a downloadable file via post or do not send the tickets at all.


Broken goods

A person's hands holding a broken mobile phone.

Most common with electronics, sellers list items like mobile phones, laptops and cameras that do not work or have an issue with them without being transparent about the item’s condition. The buyers could purchase the electronic item only to find it broken.


Undelivered purchases

Like the aforementioned woman who never received her ready-built office, buyers could take your money and never send you the item you paid for. Scammers could even send you fake invoices and tracking numbers to make it seem like they have shipped the product. In such instances, they could use the same product photo and scam multiple people by not sending the product after purchase.


Advanced payments, deposits, additional charges

When buyers ask for booking deposits to hold the product or advanced payment for a high-ticket item without allowing the buyer to check the item first, this could be a red flag.

Scammers sometimes ask for additional fees after the price was agreed upon, stating reasons like shipping insurance. It could be a scam if the buyer mentions any hidden fees or additional charges that weren’t agreed upon beforehand.


Asking for codes sent to your device

Under the pretext of verifying the buyer, the seller asks them to send a code received on the buyer’s account or device. This could be a 2-factor authentication code, allowing the scammer to access your accounts.

Buyers could also use this tactic under the guise of verifying the seller.


Overpayment by buyers

A commonly used tactic by scammers posing as buyers, they will pay more than the asking price and ask the seller to return the excess amount. In these cases, the scammer could use stolen credit cards to pay so that the authorising bank can recover the payment from your account once notified of the fraud. You would have then lost the actual price of the product as well as the overpaid amount, and if you’d already sent the product, that would have gone, too.


Returning products for a refund

This scam is targeted towards sellers, where buyers state that they are dissatisfied with their purchase or have received a broken product and claim that they have sent it back and demand a refund. In reality, they could create fake tracking numbers and never send the products, send a damaged product or an entirely different product despite having received a refund.


Claiming to have never received the delivery

In such cases, buyers state that they have not received the delivery and ask for a refund when they would have received the item and are looking to dupe the seller of their money by asking for a refund.


Giveaways as phishing attempts

Tempting giveaways and free product listings asking for additional information about the seller, like their birthdate, bank details, account details, and social security number, are most likely phishing attempts to steal sensitive information.

Similarly, listings with links in them for buyers to click on, or if a buyer or seller insists that you click on a link amidst conversations, it could be an attempt to lead the target to a malicious or spoofed website to collect key information about them.

Also read: Is StubHub safe?


What signs to look out for to spot Facebook Marketplace scams

There are a few steps you can take to minimise the chances of being scammed on the Marketplace.

Check the seller or buyer profile

There are several fake accounts on Facebook created to scam people. You should approach recently created profiles with caution. Check the buyer or seller’s profile for any inconsistencies, for example, in their photos, to identify whether it appears legitimate.


Buy from sellers with good ratings and reviews

Screenshot of seller's rating and reviews on Facebook Marketplace.

Sellers who have a high rating and have a bunch of good reviews can be trusted more than ones who don’t. This means buyers have bought from them and had a good experience with the purchasing process. You can check the authenticity of reviews by reading a few and noting whether they seem genuine.


Stay away from unbelievably good deals

Scammers are known to sell high-ticket items at much lower prices than the market value to defraud buyers by sending counterfeit or faulty products or not delivering the purchased products at all. If the deal is too good to be true, it is probably a scam.

If you purchase expensive items like luxury goods, ask for additional images, videos and other proofs like an invoice or an authenticity certificate. You can reverse-search the images to investigate their legitimacy further.

As far as possible, try to meet the buyer in person at a public spot (take a friend with you) and check the item’s authenticity before purchasing.


Stick to Facebook checkout

To qualify for the Purchase Protection policy, you must use Facebook Checkout for your transactions. If necessary, or if the checkout feature is unavailable in your country, use secure payment methods like PayPal that offer purchase protection.

If the buyer or seller asks to transact off the marketplace without a good reason or asks for wired transfers or other non-traceable methods like gift cards or cryptocurrency, reconsider the transaction.

If you have agreed to transact in person after the buyer has vetted the product, use a fast transfer method like PayPal or Venmo and wait for the payment before parting ways.

Avoid accepting checks because scammers can use this method to create a false sense of assurance when the check could bounce later.


Be cautious of giveaways and free products

More often than not, giveaways and free products asking for further information from the user are a front for a phishing scam. Buyers are easily lured with flashy giveaways and amazing free products. They might overlook key red flags like links redirecting you to a malicious website or elaborate forms asking for your personal information.


Keep conversations on the platform

Any buyer or seller who insists on taking the conversation off the marketplace can be viewed with suspicion. It becomes difficult for Facebook to investigate a scam if the conversation or transaction takes place off the platform, which is why scammers could insist you do so.

Unless absolutely necessary, do not give your phone number to a buyer or seller you don’t know.


Never share your personal details

To avoid being scammed, refrain from giving out sensitive information like your birthdate, social security number, bank account details, and login details.

With scammers trying to get into your accounts, don’t give out verification codes you receive to your device or accounts under any circumstances. Not even support agents ask you for these codes.


Wait till the money sent clears

If you are a seller, wait until you receive the money before you send the item, or if you transact in person, use a secure payment method like PayPal and wait until you receive a payment confirmation before culminating the meet-up.

Also read: Do the Police investigate Identity Theft?


What to do if you’re being scammed?

Here are the steps that you should immediately take if you think you’re scammed:

Block and report the buyer, seller or listing.

  • To report the buyer, go to the listing the buyer was interested in or purchased from, click a message between you and the buyer or tap See More. Then click on the three vertical dots and tap Report Buyer.
  • To report the seller, go to the listing you were scammed with, click on Seller details, and tap Report.
  • To report a listing, click on the concerned listing. Below the title, tap the three vertical dots below the title, click Report Listing, then Scam.
Screenshot showing how to report a listing on Facebook Marketplace if you are scammed.
Screenshot of reporting a listing when scammed.

Per Facebook’s 2021 stats, over 1.1 billion people use the Marketplace monthly. Several of these users are happy with their transactions on Facebook Marketplace. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mentions that 45% of reports of money lost to social media scams in 2021 were about online shopping. It reports about undelivered goods showed nearly 9 out of 10 users naming Facebook or Instagram.

Although Facebook does have policies and measures in place to provide users with a safe Marketplace experience, as users, we can take precautions for our safety by following tips like the ones mentioned above when buying or selling online.

Also Read: How to report a seller on Amazon?

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Vanashree Chowdhury

Being a tech enthusiast, Vanashree enjoys writing about technology and cybersecurity. She is a designer and marketer by profession and is deeply passionate about working on campaigns for social issues.

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