Facebook Marketplace can be a wonderful place to pick up a bargain. Unfortunately, it is also known for exposing sellers and buyers to a multitude of scams. You must stay on your toes and be on the lookout for any potential pitfalls.
In this guide, we have made staying safe online a little easier by listing well-known scams that you need to be aware of when browsing Facebook Marketplace.
Why is Facebook Marketplace full of scammers?
Cybercriminals target popular platforms that are known to have many users. This is why you find a lot of scammers on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
The important thing to remember is that a scammer’s playbook primarily relies on numbers. Fraudsters understand that if they cast their net on a large enough number of people, eventually, someone will make a mistake. As a result, platforms with thousands of active users are extremely popular with scammers. Facebook Marketplace intensifies the risk for consumers by adding direct sales into the mix.
Add a lack of moderation and clever social engineering that leverages meticulously designed scripts, and you have an environment in which even the most discerning of individuals could easily fall victim to an online scam.
How to protect yourself against online scams
There is no completely foolproof way to identify a scam, but you can reduce the risk by thinking carefully about each listing. Did you receive a message moments after posting it? Is the buyer willing to pay far more than was asked? Are they asking you to ship it abroad? All of these are red flags to be aware of.
We’d also suggest spending some time brushing up on cybersecurity basics. It’s also a good idea to run regular malware scans, just in case. After all, you only have to be fooled by a phishing email once to hypothetically grant an attacker access to your computer.
What are the different types of scams on Facebook Marketplace?
Broadly speaking, scams on Facebook Marketplace fall into two primary categories. There are scams that target buyers: people looking for items and making purchases. And scams that target sellers: people who are trying to sell goods via Facebook Marketplace.
Scammers have found ways to victimize both. No matter your reason for using Facebook Marketplace, it is vital to consider the different types of scams and how they might affect you.
To make things as clear as possible, we have dealt with each of these scam categories separately below.
As you can imagine, more people shop on Facebook Marketplace than sell. So scams that target buyers are most common.
In this section, we have done our best to prepare you for the potential dangers of buying goods via Facebook Marketplace by listing popular scams that affect users on the platform.
1. Counterfeit Goods
Due to people’s high demand for luxury items, and the monumental availability of fake goods being produced in countries like China and Turkey, Facebook Marketplace has a significant problem with counterfeit goods.
Whether you are trying to buy a bottle of perfume, a fancy watch, a Supreme T-shirt, or some Air Jordans, you are almost certainly at risk of running into counterfeit goods. You could end up paying over the odds for an item you believe is worth a lot of money but is really a cheap knock-off.
Unfortunately, sellers are extremely good at tricking people into believing that they are selling a legitimate item, which can make it extremely hard to know whether you have found a bargain or are being hoodwinked.
The best bet is to do some research about possible counterfeits, ask Reddit, check the comments for warnings from other Facebook users, and trust your gut. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. After all, if someone is offer you a brand new Gucci handbag worth $2000 for $150 dollars, it is more than likely a counterfeit.
2. Non-Delivery Scams
It may seem obvious, but the easiest way to trick people is to sell an item that the fraudster never actually intends to deliver.
In some instances, the seller may not actually have the item to sell. When this is the case, the photos of the item may seem suspicious, and the seller may not be able to answer specific questions about the item.
For this reason, we recommend that you always ask for secondary images that make it clear that the item really exists. You can ask for the seller to photo the item next to a piece of paper that has your name written on it, for example.
Unfortunately, this is not always a foolproof solution to the problem. The most savvy non-delivery scammers often have the item in their possession. This allows them to take high-quality images of the item for their listing. It also permits them to instill confidence in the buyer by answering questions and providing secondary photos of the item.
The important thing to remember is that this kind of scam allows tricksters to sell a single item multiple times to many victims without ever actually sending the item out. If this type of scam victimizes you, the seller may provide a fake tracking number or disappear altogether as soon as they receive your payment. So, is there any way to detect this kind of fraud?
Unfortunately, it can be very hard to spot this type of scam until it is too late. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to protect yourself:
- Always check the comments and see whether anybody has ousted the seller as a scammer before.
- Ask whether you can pay for the item in person with cash and pick it up in person in a public place that is convenient for both parties. If the seller acts cagey or has some excuse about why they can only send it in the post, alarm bells should ring.
- Be wary of anybody who asks you to pay using cryptocurrencies or other non-secure payment methods, including by wire, using bank or international funds transfers, money orders, and pre-loaded gift cards. If your seller requests one of these payment methods, it could potentially be a scam.
- If the seller requests an immediate transfer or tries to play on your emotions to hurry you up by claiming they have another buyer, this could be a sign that they are trying to emotionally manipulate you.
- If the seller requests that you communicate or pay outside of Facebook Marketplace, then it could be a scam in which the scammer is trying to hide the transaction from Facebook. If you make a deal outside of Facebook Marketplace and get scammed, then Facebook will have no recourse to help you.
If your spidey senses tingle at any point during a purchase, and you feel uncomfortable for any reason, do not send any money. People often sense that something is wrong when they are being scammed but are still coerced into making the purchase. Don’t be afraid to walk away mid-sale.
3. Phishing Scams
A phishing scam is designed to steal your personal information in order to defraud you. To carry out this type of attack, scammers often set up fake listings on Facebook Marketplace. These listings may contain links to malicious websites designed to steal your data. Unfortunately, malicious websites often look very real, so remember to consider whether a website could be a clone of a legitimate store.
Alternatively, if you show interest in the item and want to purchase it, the seller may ask for sensitive personal details such as a password, phone number, WhatsApp contact number, email address, postal address, Social Security number, or financial information such as bank account details or debit or credit card information.
The scammer will then leverage any information you provide (whether directly or within forms on a malicious website) to engage in fraud, identity theft, or secondary phishing and social engineering attacks using emails, text messages, phone calls, or even by post.
Below, we have included a checklist of things you can do to avoid phishing scams:
- Be watchful and skeptical: Always exercise caution when interacting with sellers. Check the legitimacy of the listing, see if they have other potentially concerning listings, check the comments below listings, and check the seller’s profile to see if they appear to have a fake Facebook account.
- Verify the website: If a Marketplace listing contains a link to an external website, be very cautious. Check the website’s trust rating on sites like Trustpilot. Consider whether the URL might be cloned or suspicious. Check to see if you can find a legitimate version of the website on Google. Check the website for poor grammar, bad spelling, or any other indicators that suggest the site may be fake.
- Protect your personal information: Always be extremely cautious when sharing personally identifiable information. Avoid providing unnecessary details and never hand over payment details, financial information, Social Security numbers, or any other info unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Use secure payment methods: Secure payment methods like PayPal or Facebook’s own payment system, provide buyer protection. They’re monitored and tracked and allow you to make purchases without sharing card details or sending money via wire or other unconventional means.
- Keep yourself up to date on scams: Reading articles like this one, as well as news about the latest phishing techniques and scams, can help you to be prepared to navigate Marketplace while monitoring for red flags.
- Use security and privacy features: Always take advantage of website security features, set a strong password, and enable two-factor authentication where possible.
- Report suspicious activity: If you see something suspicious, be sure to leave a comment to warn others and report it to Facebook immediately.
4. Rental scams
A growing number of people are being targeted by rental scams. These scams use fake rental listings for properties, spare rooms, boats, bikes, sports equipment, and potentially other rental items.
The scammer will ask the victim for an upfront payment or deposit to secure the rental. The unsuspecting renter then loses their money and ends up with either nowhere to stay or a lack of equipment that they expected to use.
To prevent yourself from falling victim to rental scams on Facebook Marketplace, we generally recommend against agreeing to rent on Facebook unless you can pay for the rented equipment in person at the time of the rental.
Below, we have provided as much advice for avoiding rental scams as possible:
- Use reputable rental platforms and services. Facebook is not the best place to secure a rental, and we would generally recommend against agreeing to rent a property via Facebook Marketplace as there is a high chance that it is a scam. Renting equipment via Facebook may not be as troublesome, but it is probably still better to rent via a reputable rental platform, so double-check who the renter is and whether they represent a legitimate business. If they do visit that business and rent directly instead.
- Be suspicious of below-market pricing. If a rental appears to be cheaper than the market norm, this should ring alarm bells. A good deal is a good deal, but a price that is far cheaper than the usual asking price is probably a scam. Check what a property, boat, or rental equipment usually costs in the area you need it in to find out whether the renter appears to be legitimate.
- Inspect the property or rental equipment in person. Whenever possible, ask to see the rental property or equipment before providing payment. This allows you to check that the rental is genuine and that there are no unexpected flaws or problems that the renter is attempting to conceal.
- Avoid wire transfers or cash-only requests: Rental scams nearly always involve wiring cash deposits or up-front payments prior to seeing the property or equipment in person. Never provide any payment for rental goods without first ascertaining the legitimacy of the renter and the item or property they are renting. Avoid advance cash payments for rentals because these cannot be traced, making it harder to lodge a complaint.
If you remember to remain vigilant, research carefully, rely on trusted rental services, use secure payment methods, take your time, ask questions, and obtain proper documentation; you should be able to avoid most rental scams.
5. Ticket scams
Scammers love to sell counterfeit tickets that look just like the real thing but will leave you standing out in the cold. For this reason, it is vital that you are extremely careful and try only to purchase tickets from authorized sellers and resellers.
Although ticket touts still exist, selling legitimate tickets for a profit, there are plenty of scammers selling expensive forgeries, and they love Facebook Marketplace, so you need to keep your wits about you.
People who fall victim to ticket scams either receive a counterfeit ticket or nothing at all. To avoid ticket scams, follow the rules below:
- Only buy tickets from authorized sellers.
- Be skeptical of deals that seem too good to be true or significantly cheaper than the regular ticket value.
- Verify the legitimacy of the seller by checking their reputation and checking reviews or feedback from previous buyers.
- Avoid making payments using non-refundable methods such as bank transfers or cryptocurrency.
- Be wary of electronic tickets or print-at-home tickets that can easily be forged and sent by the scammer via email.
- Double-check ticket details, including the date, time, venue, seating details, etc., against official event information to try to spot potential flaws in the scammer’s advert.
- Compare the ticket’s appearance with an official ticket to check for signs that it might be fake.
- Be extremely wary of sellers who try to rush you into paying.
- If possible, meet a seller in person to check the tickets and get a sense of whether they are genuine or not when you make the purchase. Trust your instincts and do everything you can to check the legitimacy of the original ticket purchase with the seller.
- Keep evidence of all communication and documentation related to your purchase of a ticket in order to pursue a complaint if necessary.
6. Pet scams
During and since the pandemic, there has been a surge in people working from home, leading to increased interest in owning pets. Unfortunately, scammers have taken advantage of this trend by creating fraudulent listings for pedigree puppies, kittens, and other popular pets on Facebook Marketplace.
If you see a pet advertised on Facebook Marketplace, we recommend that you follow this simple checklist to avoid being defrauded:
- Visit the seller in person to check whether the pet is real, healthy, and being kept in a suitable and humane environment.
- Do not provide any upfront payments for vaccines or other unnecessary up-front charges.
- Be careful only to provide a deposit if you are certain of the legitimacy of the seller.
- Only provide payments using secure payment services.
- Try to pay for the pet when you pick it up, if possible.
Few sellers realize that they are also at risk of being defrauded, which is one of the main reasons that this kind of fraud is on the rise. Sadly, the threat to sellers is all too real, meaning that sellers must educate themselves on potential pitfalls. To help you out, we have included the most common seller scams below:
1. Payment and overpayment scams
In this popular scam, thieves posing as buyers purchase an item and claim to have sent a payment. They may send a counterfeit check, use a fraudulent payment method, or claim to have overpaid and request a refund for the excess amount.
Payment scammers might also exploit sellers by using payment methods that can be easily canceled after an item has been posted or delivered. This leaves the seller without payment or their product.
No matter which method the scammer uses, any money returned to the buyer by the seller will leave them out of pocket. To prevent yourself from being victimized by payment scams always:
- Check that you have actually received a payment from a buyer and check the amount before offering to refund any money.
- Wait for the money to have completely cleared before posting an item, and use payment methods that can’t be reversed at the last minute.
2. Returns scams
In this scam, the buyer claims that they did not like or want the item that they purchased. They will ask if they can return the item and request a refund.
The scammer will then either fail to return the item and keep it, return a similar item that is broken, or return something completely different to provide legitimate tracking. Alternatively, the scammer may provide fake tracking details to prove they have returned the item.
No matter which scam the fraudster uses, the seller will be out of pocket if they issue a refund. To prevent this kind of scam, sellers should:
- Always wait until you receive the returned item and check that it is in full working order before issuing a refund.
3. Electronic payment delay scams
Most sellers feel inclined to trust a buyer who comes to their house or another safe public place to pick up and pay for an item. An in-person sale has that personal touch, and the seller may be successfully hoodwinked by a buyer who claims to have transferred the money but is experiencing a delay waiting for the payment to be complete.
Everyone knows that banking apps and services can be a little temperamental, which can help to reinforce a seller’s trust that the money is going to arrive shortly. Unfortunately, if you allow a buyer to leave before their payment has cleared, you may never see the item or the scammer who stole it again.
- Always wait for the payment to have cleared before allowing the buyer to leave with the item
4. 2FA scams
In this scam, the fraudster approaches sellers on Facebook Marketplace and pretends to be interested in items for sale. They ask for the seller’s phone number to discuss the purchase further.
Next, the scammer uses the victim’s phone number to create a Google Voice account. To verify this, the scammer requires the 2FA code that the victim receives.
The scammer then tricks the victim into passing the scammer the code, which allows the scammer to set up a Google Voice account in the victim’s name. The scammer will then use that clean number to engage in other scams.
If anybody asks you for your phone number and a 2FA code, it is highly likely that you’re being scammed. Never provide a 2FA code to any other party. Those codes are security codes meant only for you, and giving them away is always cause for alarm.
If you fear that you have already given your phone number and a 2FA code away to a scammer on Facebook Marketplace, the best course of action is to log in to your Google account, head to Google Voice, and claim a new number for yourself. You will need to verify the new number using a 2FA code. Google only permits users to have one Voice number per mobile device so when you link a new one, the old one made by the scammer will be unlinked!
Generally speaking, we do not recommend that you provide a phone number to anybody you meet online, whether on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Amazon, GumTree, Kijiji, OfferUp, or any other direct sales website. Communicate via the internal messenger for that service, and be suspicious of anybody who asks for your phone number, as they may be a scammer.
5. Phishing scams
Scammers posing as potential buyers engage in phishing scams to gather information from the seller that is useful for the purpose of engaging in fraud.
In this kind of scam, the seller is contacted by a fraudulent buyer who requests sensitive information. If the seller provides their postal address, email address, phone number, bank details, or other personal information, the scammer will leverage this data to defraud the seller and carry out identity theft.
To prevent this kind of fraud, you should:
- Be cautious of suspicious inquiries.
- Limit sharing of personal information.
- Verify buyer credibility by checking that their Facebook account appears to be real.
- Use secure communication channels and payment methods that can be traced.
- Be aware of common phishing techniques.
- Trust your instincts and proceed with caution.
- Report suspicious buyers to Facebook Marketplace.
How to protect yourself against Facebook Marketplace scams
So, we’ve taken a comprehensive look at the type of scams that are common on Facebook Marketplace and provided advice to protect yourself against each of those scams in their corresponding section. But here’s a quick summary of ways to stay safe on Facebook Marketplace:
- Deal with local buyers/sellers whenever possible.
- Avoid sharing personal information unless absolutely necessary.
- Use secure payment methods like PayPal or cash-on-delivery.
- Inspect products in person before providing payment.
- Be suspicious of deals that appear too good to be true.
- Check comments under listings for warnings from other users.
- Report suspicious listings, buyers, or sellers to Facebook.