Facebook Marketplace Scams: Everything You Need to Know

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Facebook Marketplace can be a great place to sell unwanted items without all the haggling you often have to endure at garage or yard sales, and it gives you access to greater numbers of consumers who may be interested in your offerings. 

But as with any online transaction, you must be aware of scams. 

I’ve sold many items on Facebook Marketplace, and this article outlines a dozen ways that bad actors could take advantage of you.  

Facebook Marketplace scams generally fit into three categories: communication, payments and products.

Table of Contents

If you remember to be on alert about potential problems in these three areas, you’ll set yourself up for success in avoiding anyone out to scam you.

Facebook Marketplace Scams: Be Careful With Communication

Facebook Marketplace uses Facebook’s Messenger tool and lets you make payments via PayPal integration. So you should never have to leave the platform when dealing with a buyer or seller. 

Scammers try to get you to communicate with them through other channels. That can open you up to potential payment scams and even identity theft. 

Here are two ways scammers try to take you off the Facebook platform.

Scammers Ask To Verify Your Identity Using Google Voice

To give themselves the appearance of exercising caution, scammers ask for your phone number and then request that you share with them a Google Voice verification code that they text to you.

What the scammer is doing is setting up a Google Voice account using your phone number. This lets the crook forward Google Voice texts and calls to another number. So if you give the scammer that verification code, you’re helping the scammer scam others with an account associated with your phone number!

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How to avoid it: Don’t agree to anything, even the exchange of information, that makes you uncomfortable or feels unnecessary. If the person really wanted to verify that you were a real person, why not just do a video call via Facebook Messenger? 

Giveaways That Request You Provide Personal Information

If you see an item being offered for free, provided that you click a link and enter personal information to win it, you’ve likely fallen for a phishing scheme. 

How to avoid it: Simply remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Facebook Marketplace Scams: Be Careful With Payments

One of the most convenient things about Facebook Marketplace is the ability to market your products to audiences larger than your own neighborhood or circle of friends, but you can list your item for “local pickup” so you don’t have to mail it. But local pickup can also mean paying off the platform, and that’s a reason to be extra careful.

Online Payment App Scams (Zelle, Venmo or Cash App)

Scammers claim that they’re using an upgraded “business version” of the payment app and tell you that you have to upgrade your account to accept money from them. The scammer tells you that there is a fee associated with the upgrade and as a courtesy, he/she will front you the money so you can upgrade. The scammer shares a bogus receipt as proof and prompts you for reimbursement right away, creating a sense of urgency. Don’t fall for it!

How to avoid this: While there are such things as business accounts for each of these payment apps, you don’t need to upgrade to send money or receive payments. So if someone sends you a receipt saying that you must upgrade, it’s fake.

There are other problems with Zelle. Read about them here

Request for Advance Payment/Deposit

When buying something on Facebook Marketplace that’s designated for “local pickup only,” some sellers may request a partial or full payment to hold an item until you can pick it up. Don’t do that, because there’s nothing stopping the seller from pocketing your payment and selling the item elsewhere. Or it’s also possible that the item may not even exist. 

How to avoid this scam: If you’re picking up the item, pay only when it’s in your possession and you’ve had a chance to examine it. If you’re buying an item that will be shipped to you via Facebook’s checkout, know that Facebook offers Purchase Protection for many (but not all) orders. Facebook does ask that you try first to work things out directly with the seller.

Request for Item To Be Mailed Without Payment

If you agree to buy an item with local pickup only, but then the seller asks instead to ship it, that’s a red flag. The scammer may show you a fake receipt for shipping, and if you pay for the item and the cost to ship it outside of the Marketplace platform, you may have just said goodbye to some of your cash. 

How to avoid this scam: Use only Facebook’s approved shipping methods to send items. Don’t agree to any side deals.

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Request for Reimbursement for Insurance

The scammer could send you a fake receipt for insuring the item and ask you for reimbursement. 

How to avoid it: If the item is valuable enough, you may want it insured in transit, but you and the seller should agree on the amount, and that should be built into the cost. Generally speaking, insurance is reasonable. The USPS offers insurance on items valued up to $5,000. But remember, insurance may be unnecessary for most items because Facebook offers Purchase Protection on many items priced at $2,000 or lower.

Overpayment

Scammers share with you a screenshot showing that they sent you more than the agreed amount — and they ask for a refund on the difference. 

How to avoid it: Check the bank account where the money was sent to confirm the payment amount. Don’t take the person’s word for it.  

Facebook Marketplace Scams: Be Careful With the Products

Before we get to information on actual product scams, a major note about safety:

If you do deliver or pick up an item face-to-face, I strongly suggest you do so in a public, well-lit place, and so does Facebook. Never invite people to your home or give them additional personal information.

Facebook allows you to create a meetup plan within its Messenger app that lets a trusted friend or family member know where you’re headed. Instructions from Facebook on setting up and sharing meetup plans are here.

Now that you understand the importance of safety, look out for these kinds of scams that pertain to products on Facebook Marketplace.

Counterfeit Items

That Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United jersey may look great in a Marketplace posting, but if it’s only $20, it’s probably not an officially licensed one.

How to avoid this scam: Read up on the manufacturer in advance and ask for photos of the tags and the packaging on the item. 

Fake Rental Property

Scammers may try to lure you in by sharing beautiful photos that do not accurately reflect the current condition of the rental. Worse yet, they could be showing you photos of a property that doesn’t exist!

How to avoid it: Search for the address on Google Maps and check out the street-level view. While you obviously can’t open the door, an exterior shot will help show whether the pictures you’re seeing on Marketplace are legit. Also, ask for a showing. Any landlord asking you to pay without seeing the place and/or without signing a lease is likely up to no good.

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Bait and Switch

Some scammers may try to take advantage of you by sharing photos that are not representative of the actual condition of the item for sale, hoping you don’t notice anything different. Or maybe they change the price.  

How to avoid it: Make note of the price and condition of the item before committing to make an in-person purchase. If listing photos showed a spotless red wagon without any scratches, but the live version is anything but, speak up. To help prevent disagreements about price, take a screenshot of the amount as soon as you agree on the price or refer back to your Messenger texts. For items shipped to you using Facebook shipping and checkout, first, try to work out any discrepancies with the seller. If that doesn’t work, Facebook’s Purchase Protection plan can help secure a refund if warranted. (That’s another good reason to stay on the Marketplace platform when making transactions.)

Damaged Goods

The buyer claims that the item arrived broken and wants a refund. Do you believe them or not? If you trust them and they were lying, you just gave them an item for free. 

How to avoid it: If there is a dispute about an item broken in transit, work with the buyer to get as much information about what happened. If you don’t like what you hear, Facebook ultimately will review the transaction and make a determination about a refund in accordance with its policies. If you do all you can to protect an item when shipping, that will only help your case. So pack the item as carefully as possible, with packing peanuts, bubble wrap or both! Insurance is an option too, provided you and the buyer agree on who will pay that cost. To make it easy, you could bake in the cost of insurance into the price of the sold item.

Failed Delivery

With the prevalence of package pirates and delivery services not always being 100% reliable, there may be times when a buyer legitimately doesn’t receive your item.

How to avoid it: Facebook offers sellers protection against claims for lost, stolen, and transit-delayed packages, provided you ship an item on time and with a Facebook-generated mailing label. If this happens to you, know that Facebook will keep you from eating the loss, provided the item costs less than $2,000.

What Can You Do if You Get Scammed?

While I’ve armed you with information that should help keep you and your money safe when making a Facebook Marketplace transaction, sometimes things do happen. So what if you do get scammed?

Unfortunately, Facebook won’t help you much. While there are processes to report both buyers and sellers and describe how you’ve been scammed, Facebook never expressly says what it will do after you report a problem.

Interestingly, you’ll see this verbiage on the bottom of the page you use on Facebook to report a problem with a seller: “Contact your local law enforcement for immediate help if you’re in danger or the victim of a scam.” While every agency is different, it’s unrealistic to expect a strong response from your local police for a Facebook transaction gone bad. So your best strategy is to follow the tips above.

The Federal Trade Commission gives you the opportunity to report scams at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov, but the agency makes it clear that it cannot resolve your individual report. Instead, the FTC says it shares reports with more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies and uses your report “to bring cases against fraud, scams and bad business practices.” The FTC also provides advice about what you can do if you get scammed.

Money expert Clark Howard advises against using an app such as Zelle, Venmo or Cash App to pay people you don’t know well. If the account gets hacked, thieves have access to all the money in the checking account tied to the app, and there’s generally no way to get the money back.

The BBB has its own portal for reporting scams. Filling out a BBB report can help spread the word about scams. 

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Final Thoughts

Staying safe from Facebook Marketplace scams comes down to remembering three things: Be careful of how you communicate, be careful how you pay and make sure you’re getting what you paid for. That will make it much more likely that your Facebook Marketplace transactions are good ones.

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