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Facebook Marketplace scams: What they are, and how to avoid them

Being scammed out of your hard-earned cash is a learning experience nobody wants. Unfortunately, Facebook Marketplace scammers have several techniques to trick you into giving away money or goods. Is Facebook Marketplace safe? It can be, but you have to follow the right rules.

Facebook Marketplace scams: What they are, and how to avoid them

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

What are Facebook marketplace scams?

Facebook scammers use quite a few methods to steal your money or credentials. Modern cybercriminals will often resort to social engineering to trick unwitting consumers into falling for scams. A scammer can fool someone into a false sense of security by relying on a victim’s craving for the cheapest deal. And since Facebook hosts millions of users worldwide, malicious actors can come up with various creative Facebook scams to exploit these cravings.

The most common Facebook Marketplace scams

Here are some of the most common Facebook Marketplace scams you might come across.

1. Fake payment receipts

Fake payment receipts are among the most popular scams on the Facebook Marketplace. The buyer sends phony or old successful payment information to trick the seller. You should only ship the item once you receive the payment to your bank account and never take this kind of proof. If you use Facebook Checkout or PayPal, you will get notified about the payment the moment it is made.

2. Overpayment

A buyer will overpay for an item and want a refund for the overpayment. Sounds simple enough, but this scam involves the buyer specifically using checks. The buyer attempts to trick the seller with a check by sending a bogus payment. The unwitting seller sends the overpayment refund and only realizes too late that the check they have received will bounce. For other items, a seller might request advance payment or a deposit to secure the goods. Unless you’ve made the exchange in person, it’s best to ignore such requests.

3. Bootleg items/broken items

A seller will offer branded items or the latest tech at bargain prices. More often than not, if tech is selling far below the market price, it’s probably broken. Similarly, with branded goods, if a $500 handbag is selling for $50, it’s either bootleg or stolen.

4. Shipping scams

A buyer will try and talk you into sending the item first, perhaps for testing or compatibility purposes. Once the item is sent and received, the buyer mysteriously vanishes without sending the money or returning the item. Alternatively, Facebook Marketplace shipping scams are when a seller requests shipping payment then never sends the item.

5. Moving conversations out of Facebook

Once you show interest in an item, the seller immediately offers to move the conversation to another platform. This way, the buyer will not have proof if something goes wrong. So make sure that every part of your exchange is made on the Facebook platform.

Some scammers may ask you to transfer the money for the purchase on other platforms, such as Zelle. Do not get hooked, and always use Facebook Checkout or PayPal to pay for an item. In case of such Zelle scams, you can contact customer support and get your money back. You can also report dishonest sellers to Facebook.

6. Advanced payment request

You may come across sellers who ask you to pay for an item in advance to secure your purchase. They may ask you to pay, for example, $200 for a musical instrument to hold it for you. The bad news is that they are probably doing this with tens of other buyers and have no intention of shipping the item to any of them.

What to do if you get scammed on the Facebook Marketplace

So your money is gone, and the item isn’t turning up — you’ve definitely been scammed. The first step is to report the seller to Facebook. Facebook Marketplace usually takes down fake listings and fraudulent sellers. Unfortunately, some still make it through the filter. Report the seller and hope the admins take care of the fraudsters quickly.

The Facebook protection service will help if you’ve tried contacting the seller and reached a dead end. Facebook will directly refund the purchase if it can be proved that:

  • The item didn’t arrive.
  • The item was damaged/not what was advertised.
  • The seller isn’t following their own refund policy.
  • The purchase was made accidentally.

If the merchant is nearby and has been known to cheat others out of their money, it might also be worth reporting them to the local authorities.

How to recognize a Facebook scammer

Luckily, the signs of a Facebook scammer are easy to recognize once you know what to look for. However, remember that social engineering is a large part of what makes marketplace scams successful. Cybercriminals are looking for new ways to hook your attention and sway your sense of judgment. Always avoid deals that seem too good to be true — they usually are.

Spotting a Facebook scammer isn’t as complicated as you may think. Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

  • Overly cheap items. If an item is marketed far below the usual market price, it typically means something fishy. If it’s tech, the item could be broken. If it’s clothing or sneakers, they could be bootleg. If it’s cheap and seems genuine, keep in mind it could be stolen.
  • The seller refuses to meet in person. If a seller refuses to meet you in a public space, move on and look for another merchant. It’s always smart to inspect your item in person first. If the seller refuses, the item they’re advertising is probably phony.
  • The seller or buyer doesn’t use official communication. Some scammers hijack other Facebook accounts and use stolen profiles to sell fake goods. By avoiding talking through Messenger, the scammer reduces the chance of the victim finding out.
  • Suspicious item listings. Does the seller have the same item up for sale in multiple different locations, some multiple states or counties apart? The items are probably fraudulent.
  • Seller refuses to use the Facebook Checkout service or PayPal. The Facebook Checkout service is specifically available to help buyers avoid fraudulent transactions. If a seller wants you to pay another way, it’s a sign they’re a scammer.

How to avoid scams and stay safe on the Facebook Marketplace

So now that you can spot an internet scam, it’s time to implement what you know to avoid becoming a victim. Here’s what you need to do to avoid Facebook Marketplace fraud and robbery.

  • Always use official payment methods. Using the Facebook Checkout service or PayPal is a smart choice for tech-savvy marketplace regulars. If you can, pay with a credit card. It’s easier to be refunded for fraudulent payments.
  • Receive payment first. Don’t send anything before receiving money for shipping and the item.
  • Pay attention to seller ratings. The star rating is there for a reason. If a seller has a low rating, it usually means not to trust them.
  • Don’t accept overpayment. No matter how nice the buyer seems or how genuine the excuse they provide is, never fall for this trick.
  • Be wary of phishing scams. How can you protect yourself on social networking sites the best? Always stay alert. Some cybercriminals will redirect a link to a credential-stealing site or instruct you to download malware. Don’t click on anything suspicious.

How safe is Facebook Marketplace?

Facebook Marketplace is about as safe as any other online buying and selling site. It all relies on the user’s knowledge and experience. If you pay attention to all the signs, you probably won’t get snagged in a scammer’s trap. In short, the Facebook Marketplace is safe to buy and sell goods if you take certain precautions.

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