Facebook Marketplace: Scammer's Paradise
Facebook Marketplace is booming. You can find everything from baby cribs to Gucci bags for sale locally and for a fair price. At least most of the time.
Many Facebook Marketplace users are real people selling legitimate items. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of scammers posing as genuine customers and merchants.
Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, you need to protect yourself from the most common Facebook Marketplace scams.
In this guide, we’ll explain why Marketplace has become such an irresistible target for fraudsters, how to recognize the most common scams, and how you can shop safely without fear of losing your time, money, or items.
Why Scammers Target Facebook Marketplace
Facebook Marketplace is an e-commerce site on which Facebook users can buy, sell, and trade goods.
If you’ve ever used Craigslist or eBay, you’ll feel right at home on Marketplace. Users post items for sale along with photos and relevant descriptions. And because Marketplace connects to Facebook, buyers can also check the seller’s reviews and even see their Facebook profile and shared connections.
Unfortunately, social media isn’t always what it seems. It’s easy for scammers to pose as someone else, use social media takeovers to fraudulently list items, and steal from unsuspecting buyers.
Facebook Marketplace also relies on buyers and sellers directly interacting. Once you contact a buyer, you’ll be put in a chat with them, giving scammers the chance to pressure you into falling for their fraud.
What are Some Red Flags for Facebook Marketplace Scams?
Buyers aren’t the only ones at risk of Facebook Marketplace scams. Sellers can fall prey to fake buyers looking to get their personal information to use in future scams or even identity theft.
So what should you be looking for if you think the person you're talking to is a scammer?
Here are some red flags for Facebook Marketplace scams:
- Sellers offer suspiciously low prices for high-ticket items.
- Sellers refuse to meet in person.
- Buyers or sellers try to take the conversation outside of Facebook Messenger.
- Buyers send you prepaid shipping labels.
- A buyer overpays for a product.
- Buyers or sellers ask for your phone number.
- They don’t have a profile photo.
- The seller wants you to pay with a gift card.
Ultimately, the golden rule of shopping safely on Marketplace is that if an item or transaction feels too good to be true, it probably is.
If you notice any red flags, proceed with caution or stop communicating with the user altogether.
For Buyers: Facebook Marketplace Scams to Beware
Buyers are the most common target for Facebook Marketplace scammers. As you browse for your next purchase, beware of these common scams:
1. Fake seller accounts
Social media is full of fake user accounts. On Facebook Marketplace, fraudsters will create multiple fake Facebook accounts and list the same items at various price points–usually lower than comparable ones to get you excited about a deal.
But once you agree on a price and pay them, the items never arrive.
You might think that it would be easy to spot a fake account, but scammers have gotten more sophisticated in recent years.
In 2019, a Facebook data breach exposed the personal information of 533 million Facebook users from 106 countries.
Many fake accounts were legitimate users at one point who either stopped using Facebook without realizing someone else had access to their account or had their credentials purchased off the Dark Web after a breach.
If you want to check if your personal information has been stolen by hackers, try Aura’s Identity Guard Dark Web Scanner.
2. Suspiciously low pricing (aka, the “bait and switch”)
A seller changing the price once you’ve inquired about the item is an immediate red flag.
This scam is also known as the “bait and switch” method. A scammer gets your attention with a low-ticket item and then tries to sell you a more expensive product or the same product at a higher price.
At the first sign of inconsistent pricing, take your money and run.
3. Offering giveaways that are too good to be true
Some Facebook Marketplace scammers will try to get your personal information by offering a giveaway–such as for luxury items or cryptocurrency.
Scammers will send you a phishing link to “enter” the giveaway and then capture your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and/or get you to download malware and viruses onto your computer. Malware gives scammers access to your personal information, such as bank accounts and passwords.
Some giveaways may be genuine. So how can you tell if the one you're look at is a scam?
There are several warning signs of fake giveaways to beware of:
- The account is new or not connected to a business profile.
- There are spelling and grammar mistakes in the giveaway information.
- The giveaway asks you to complete several tasks first.
- You are asked for personal information upfront.
Facebook does not verify outbound links, so users can include any link in a giveaway post. Be cautious about clicking giveaway links out of the Marketplace.
4. Selling faulty or poor condition items
Facebook Marketplace is full of discounted items from sellers. Some are in excellent condition, while others are not.
Usually, the scammer will describe items like game consoles as being in great condition. It’s only after you’ve paid for and received the item that you realize it’s not as described.
Scammers may also sell clothing or purses they’ve created themselves and try to pass these off as high-end brands. You’ll find out that the items are fake too late, and the seller is long gone by then.
5. Demanding to mail items
Sometimes the best deals aren’t within driving distance. But any time you buy an item without seeing it in person first, you run the risk of getting scammed.
Use Facebook Marketplace filters to check for items that are closer to you. When you meet up with a seller, make sure it’s in a safe, public space and that other people know where you are and who you’re meeting.
If you’re absolutely set on buying an item that needs to be shipped, request a tracking number and pay with a service like PayPal. This way, you can contest and sometimes even reverse fraudulent transactions.
6. Posting phony house rentals
Facebook Marketplace has become one of the best places to find rental properties. Unfortunately, not all listings are legitimate.
Scammers will post fake or misleading photos, change the rental price once you’ve committed, charge illegal fees for background checks, or even post rentals owned by other people.
Facebook Marketplace rental scams are especially dangerous for people moving to a new state. Scammers can gain access to a property and conduct video “tours” to make you feel safe. Then, they’ll ask for deposits or personal information and disappear.
Whenever possible, visit the property yourself or have someone you know confirm it for you.
7. Requiring deposits or prepayment
You should never agree to send a deposit or pay for an item before receiving it.
Scammers may tell you that an item is getting a lot of attention and they need you to send a deposit to “hold” it. Unfortunately, they might be telling the same thing to tens or even hundreds of other people, collecting deposits and stringing you along until someone catches on.
8. Asking you to communicate outside of Facebook Marketplace
Both buyers and sellers should stick to Facebook Marketplace as much as possible.
Scammers will want to quickly move you to a communication method that can’t be monitored or tracked, like a phone call or other chat tool. This way, you won’t have a record of what happened when they scam you.
For Sellers: How to Stay Safe While Selling on Marketplace
Sellers should be just as cautious when selling their goods on Facebook Marketplace.
As you interact with potential buyers, beware of these common scams:
9. Using stolen credit cards for payment
With this scam, a buyer will purchase your items but send you payment through an app like Venmo or Zelle. Unfortunately, they’re using stolen credit cards.
When the credit card is reported as stolen, the payment gets reversed. You get nothing, and the item is gone. Worse still, you may have to pay off the credit card debt.
This scam is especially insidious as it can even happen to sellers who meet buyers in person.
Always receive payments through Facebook Marketplace’s approved channels: cash, PayPal, or Facebook Checkout. Methods like Cash App, Venmo, and wire transfers are not recommended.
10. Sending extra money and then asking for a refund
Buyers use counterfeit funds, fake checks, stolen cards, or fake Paypal accounts to send more than the amount listed for the item and then claim it was a mistake and request a refund.
You’ll be forced to return the overage amount, but the actual funds will never end up in your possession. The fraudster pockets the money, and you’re left to deal with the repercussions.
11. Sending you a prepaid shipping label
This scam happens when buyers offer to send you a prepaid shipping address label. They claim that they have a preferred shipping method and will pay for shipping. But since they’ve provided the tracking label, they can change the destination of their package.
Once you’ve sent the package out, the buyer calls the delivery company and changes the shipping address. Then, the buyer contacts you saying they never received the package.
You have no record of the tracking information, so there is no way to prove they received the package.
12. Asking you to ship before they pay
With advanced shipment scams, buyers insist on sending payment only after the item has shipped. They may say they want to make sure the item works or that they’re waiting for a check to clear. But they’ll disappear soon after receiving the package.
To protect yourself and your merchandise, only send shipments after receiving payment.
What To Do If You Get Scammed on Facebook Marketplace
If you suspect you’ve been scammed on Facebook Marketplace, don’t panic. Depending on your situation, you may be able to request a refund.
Once you’ve alerted the authorities, turn your attention back to Facebook. Thankfully, Facebook is aware of the rise in scammers and has created a Purchase Protection policy to protect buyers.
The Facebook Purchase Protection policy covers the following situations:
- You failed to receive your order.
- The product was damaged or different from the listing.
- The seller didn’t follow Facebook’s refund policy.
- The purchase was unauthorized (i.e., you can prove that your account was hacked or someone else made the purchase using your account).
If you attempt to contact the seller and get no response, you can contact Facebook and request a refund. You should also report the buyer or seller as a scammer to alert Facebook of the misconduct.
To report a person on Facebook Marketplace, navigate to the Marketplace icon on the left side of your screen. Find the listing of the person you want to report, and select the seller’s name. Select the “More Options” button and choose “Report Seller.” Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the report.
You’ll be asked to provide evidence of the scam. If Facebook takes your side, the seller’s account will be blocked and they won’t be able to log-in.
Pro tip: Not all items are covered by Facebook’s policy. If you’re feeling uneasy about a purchase, check whether you’re covered first.
How To Protect Yourself From Facebook Scammers
The Facebook Marketplace is just one of the many places where scammers can target you. It’s important to always beware of who you’re interacting with on online marketplaces and how scammers target you for identity theft and fraud.
Follow these tips to protect yourself from online scammers:
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on Facebook and all other online platforms. This means that anyone trying to hack your account will need a special code to log-in. Unfortunately, 2FA can be hacked if someone has access to your phone or digital device. A better option is to use an authenticator app like Google Authenticator or Okta.
- Thoroughly inspect all products before purchasing them. Check for damages and make sure electronic devices power on and work as expected.
- Meet with the buyer/seller in a well-lit, public place. Bring a friend or make sure someone knows where you’re going and who you’re meeting.
- Look at user ratings before making a purchase. Check their profiles for anything that looks suspicious like strange posts and long gaps between activity.
- Set up fraud alerts on your credit card and bank accounts. If someone has accessed your banking information through a social media scam, you’ll know in near real-time that you’re the victim of fraud.
- Pay in cash, or use trusted payment methods. Remember, even checks can be faked. If you use PayPal, don’t select “friends and family” payments either, as it will negate your protection.
- Keep track of conversations with the buyer/seller. Stay on Facebook Marketplace so that it’s easy to track conversations if you end up getting scammed.
- Beware of buyers willing to purchase your product without seeing it. It may seem like an easy transaction, but chances are they’re just trying to scam you.
- Never ship before receiving payment. Use a Facebook-approved online payment service like PayPal or Facebook Checkout so both you and your buyer feel safe.
- If a seller seems suspicious, Google their email address. If it’s associated with other suspicious websites or listings, it’s a scam.
- Immediately decline any overpayments. Never send “refunds” to buyers who claim to have accidentally sent too much.
- Protect your devices from malware and viruses. If you accidentally open a spam link, you’ll be protected from viruses trying to access your personal information.
Buyers and Sellers Beware of Common Marketplace Scams
As you shop or sell online, be on the lookout for signs of scams and take action immediately.
Remember, if a situation seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Scammers prey on your desire for deals to steal information, money, or items. But by following these tips, you’ll be in a better position to keep yourself safe.
If a scammer does get access to your account, steals your credit card information, or sends you a malware link, make sure you’re protected.
Aura scans your credit and bank statements for suspicious behavior and alerts you 4x faster than any other fraud monitoring services. We also block malicious sites and protect your computer from malware so identity thieves can’t get access to your information.