There are so many scams on Facebook Marketplace nowadays that it’s hard to stay safe. However, for many people, the Marketplace is still the safest and easiest way to get great deals on furniture, clothes and even rentals. If you want to use this service and stay safe, there are some things you need to know.
Common Facebook Marketplace Scams that Target Buyers
Buyers are especially vulnerable on the Marketplace. Here are the most common scams on Facebook Marketplace today.
Fake Rental Properties
As housing becomes more expensive, fake rental scams become more common. On Facebook Marketplace, it’s easy for sellers to create a fake listing for a property.
During my rental search, I encountered several varieties of fake rental property scams.
One person legitimately owned the property, but used photos that were more than 10 years old in order to lure prospective renters into paying higher prices. When we showed up at the listed address, we found that the entire back porch was crumbling and had been condemned. It had been brand new in the photos! The seller shrugged and said that any renter would be expected to sign a waiver and commit to never stepping onto the back porch.
Another person did not own the property at all and demanded all prospective buyers to fill out an application (revealing their name, birthday, Social Security Number and other private details) before they could look at the property or even receive an address. When I couldn’t even get an address, I refused to fill out the application.
Broken Items for High Prices
Sometimes, sellers will try to pass of broken video game consoles and other electronics for very high prices. If it doesn’t work, you could lose the money you spent on the item.
It’s always wise to meet up in a safe, neutral location when you’re meeting someone you don’t know. However, if you’re purchasing electronics, it’s imperative that you meet somewhere where you can turn on and test the electronic equipment. Don’t pay for something until you’ve had the opportunity to make sure it works as advertised.
Bait and Switch
Sometimes, sellers will post one item that is in great condition and very valuable… only to present you with something else when it’s time to buy. The replacement item may be a different size, color, brand, variety or price than originally advertised. The seller might say that the original item sold or is no longer available. Either way, it’s not what you wanted.
Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal if the item isn’t what you expected. If the meetup was arranged under false pretenses and you’re being charged for something you didn’t want to buy, it’s a scam. Don’t let yourself be guilted or manipulated into completing a transaction for an item you don’t genuinely want.
If you are presented with an offer for a free item, it could be a phishing scam. Don’t enter your information on websites that you don’t trust. When you offer a name, email address, mailing address and birthday, that information can be used to steal your identity.
If you see an expensive item that is name-brand or in high-demand being sold for pennies on the dollar, it’s probably counterfeit. Be wary of any deals that are ridiculously low-priced or free. After all, if that name-brand purse really was selling for just $12, don’t you think someone would’ve taken it by now? Think critically and be wary of unrealistic offers.
Common Facebook Marketplace Scams that Target Sellers
There are several common scams on Facebook Marketplace. If you use Facebook Marketplace to sell your items regularly, you may encounter one or several of these.
Google Voice Verification Scam
The Google Voice Scam begins when a user asks about an item you’re selling or maybe even a pet that you’ve lost. They’ll respond to your post but pretend to be very hesitant. Ironically, they’ll act like they are worried about being scammed. They’ll say that they want to verify that you’re a real person, so they’ll ask you for your phone number.
When you give your phone number, you’ll receive a text message with a Google Voice verification code. The person who contacted you will ask for that code. They’ll say that if you’re a real person, you should be able to give them the code.
However, if you do this, they’ll be able to create a Google Voice account that is linked to your phone number. They may also be able to gather enough information to steal your identity. Google Voice is a service that allows you to make phone calls or send text messages from an internet browser or mobile device. The scammer can then use that account to rip off other people and conceal their identity. They could even pretend to be you while they scam others!
If you’ve made the mistake of giving a scammer your Google Voice verification code, then follow these steps to reclaim your Voice number.
If you’re approached by someone who wants to confirm your validity with a Google Voice code, don’t send it to them! This is one of the most dangerous scams on Facebook Marketplace. You should never respond to a security prompt that you didn’t initiate. Facebook Marketplace transactions can be managed completely within Facebook Messenger, so you should never feel the need to give any potential buyer or seller your phone number.
Fraudulent Payment Scam
Sometimes, a buyer will send you a fake receipt and claim that they’ve already paid. They’ll ask you to send the item immediately since they’ve already paid for it. The scammer’s goal is to get you to send the item before you realize that the receipt is fake, which means that you’ll have already lost the item.
The best way to avoid falling for the Fraudulent Payment Scam is to only accept payments made through PayPal and Facebook Marketplace. These trusted payment networks have protections that can help you reclaim your funds if the transaction turned out to be a scam.
Lost Package Scam
If you ship an item without tracking information, it’s very easy for an unethical buyer to claim that the item was never received. If the item isn’t received, they can usually get a refund. If you have already shipped the item, this can leave you without your item and without any money to compensate you for it. Meanwhile, the scammer gets your item and keeps their cash.
If you ship your item, always opt for tracking so you can monitor the delivery. If they try to claim the item wasn’t delivered, you can have evidence to fight the chargeback.
Be wary of any buyers who claim they accidentally sent an overpayment. Sometimes, they’ll even send a screenshot with a bogus receipt showing that the payment was larger than intended. They’ll push you to issue a refund.
If you issue that refund, you’ll likely end up taking a loss because there was no original payment at all. Ideally, you should make it clear from the start that you do not issue refunds for overpayments.
How to Identify Scams on Facebook Marketplace
Unfortunately, we are not able to explore every scam that occurs on Facebook Marketplace because there are just so many. Scammers are continuously developing new tactics to defraud users.
Scams usually have multiple red flags, so there are some things to watch for as you engage in transactions on Facebook Marketplace.
Often, scammers will use new Facebook profiles because their previous one was likely reported or banned for their behavior. You should always snoop on the buyer or seller’s profile to make sure it looks legitimate.
Urgency is a hallmark of many scams. If there is an intense sense of urgency, you should take a step back and not act rashly. Scammers don’t want to give you time to uncover their deception so they will always pressure you to act fast.
Don’t complete transactions outside of the Facebook platform. Use Facebook Checkout and PayPal to make sure that you’re protected.
Scammers will often ask for additional information like verification codes, phone numbers, and other personal information that is not critical to completing the transaction. Do not give them any additional information, because this can be used to perpetrate identity theft against you.
How to Stay Safe from Scams on Facebook Marketplace
If you follow these steps, you can almost always stay safe.
Keep it local.
Sure, that far-away item may look like a steal but in reality, purchasing from someone long distance opens you up to a greater potential for scams. You’re more likely to stay safe when you engage with local sellers that you can meet in person.
Check their profiles.
Don’t be afraid to snoop on the buyer or seller’s Facebook profiles. Fake accounts have become quite sophisticated, but you should always be wary of new accounts or accounts that never post anything but items for sale.
Arrange safe meet-ups in a neutral location.
Always meet in a public place instead of your home. Ideally, you should always meet up in well-lit areas that are fairly busy. If something goes wrong, it’s helpful to have other people around.
I cannot stress this enough, but do not invite potential buyers or sellers directly to your home. I have made this mistake more than once.
When moving out of a rental, I posted a number of free items on Facebook. A few days later, the property was ransacked and my remaining possessions were stolen. As a seller, I have never invited another buyer to my residence.
Around the same time, I tried to deliver an item to a buyer. They reached out and told me they desperately wanted my couches but couldn’t pick them up because they didn’t have a big enough vehicle. They asked if I would deliver them. I certainly understand that many people struggle to afford transportation, so I agreed. When I arrived, the buyer offered less than 25% of the price we’d agreed upon. They assumed that since I’d gone through the difficulty of loading the couches and driving to their apartment, I’d be willing to accept their lower price so I wouldn’t have to unload them back at my home. They were wrong… and I’ve never delivered another item since.
Always use trusted payment methods.
Use Facebook Checkout and PayPal when processing payments for items on Facebook Marketplace. Scammers will often request that you pay with gift cards, wire transfers, or outside payment processers like Venmo or Zelle. Keeping the transaction on Facebook through Facebook Messenger and Facebook Checkout helps keep you safe.
How to Report a Scam on Facebook Marketplace
If you spot a scam on Facebook, report it right away! Your swift action can protect you and other users from bad actors.
Fortunately, Facebook makes it easy to report scams. Just click the three dots in the upper right-hand corner, click “report” and follow the prompts. This works for reporting listings, sellers and buyers.