Facebook Marketplace is a fantastic platform to find great deals on new and used items. But with the significant volume of daily transactions on the forum, Facebook Marketplace scams are on the rise.
With nearly 3 billion monthly active users, Facebook is unquestionably the biggest social media network, and Facebook Marketplace has become a global force in linking buyers and sellers. In 2021, the tech giant had a billion users on Facebook Marketplace, dethroning Craigslist as the most popular consumer-to-consumer marketplace.
How Facebook Marketplace works
Facebook Marketplace allows local sellers to appeal to a much larger audience without investing in infrastructure development. The platform does not charge its sellers any fee for the product listings unless they want to market them using Facebook ads. However, there are some pitfalls with the platform. Facebook lets buyers and sellers communicate directly and decide what works best for them.
The platform’s unrestricted nature has resulted in various Facebook Marketplace scams. What are these scams, and how can you protect yourself? Let’s find out!
What are Facebook Marketplace scams?
Facebook Marketplace scam is a collective term that includes numerous frauds on the platform. If a seller tries to dupe you out of cash or doesn’t deliver on their promised goods or service, that’s a Facebook Marketplace scam. These scams can also happen with the sellers if a buyer receives the item but never pays for it.
Common types of Facebook Marketplace scams
Here are a few common Facebook Marketplace scams that you should beware of while using the platform:
Paying outside of Facebook
The Facebook Marketplace features its own payment gateway—Facebook Checkout—but also lets buyers use PayPal for payments. As a rule of thumb, you should only use these payment methods or cash when you order through the platform.
According to Facebook’s policy, it can track these payment methods and help you get your money back if scammed. If you pay outside of Facebook, you’re on your own.
Scammers often lure buyers to pay outside Facebook to avoid the platform’s 5% selling fees.
Experts recommend against using payment methods outside of Facebook, even when the seller looks legit. As a buyer, you lose control over the transaction and may lose the product and your money.
Selling defective items
Beware of the too-good-to-be-true pricing, as scammers often use lucrative deals to bait users. If you find a value product such as an iPhone, a PlayStation, or a luxury item for way less than the market price, that’s a red flag. Even if you use recommended payment methods like Facebook Checkout and PayPal, there is a chance that the seller might send you counterfeit or defective items.
Facebook’s Purchase Protection policy covers the sale of defective items, but sadly, it doesn’t apply to a significant percentage of sellable items. For example, the policy doesn’t cover custom-made items, precious gemstones, antiques, vehicles and other goods and services.
Mailing rather than item pickup
This is a common scam that may hurt both sellers and buyers. If you are a seller, fraudulent buyers might ask you to mail the items rather than a physical pickup. These buyers will trick you into mailing the products before they pay. Subsequently, you may never receive payment after shipping.
Likewise, fraudsters can trick buyers into paying before they send their products (which never arrive). As a buyer, experts suggest making purchases with local sellers as the best way to ensure you get the items you pay for.
Google Voice Scams
Gaining access to your Google Voice account—or creating a fraudulent account in your name—is the gist of the Google Voice scam. The scammer needs your phone number and a six-digit one-time verification code to gain access to your Google Voice account. The scammer can later use your Voice account to create more accounts under your name and potentially commit cybercrimes, such as accessing or creating new accounts in your name.
Here’s how the Federal Trade Commission describes the scam in a 2021 consumer alert:
“The scammers contact you and say they want to buy the item you’re selling — or that they found your pet. But before they commit to buying your item, or returning your pet, they feign hesitation. They might say they’ve heard about fake online listings and want to verify that you’re a real person. Or they might say they want to verify that you’re the pet’s true owner. They send you a text message with a Google Voice verification code and ask you for that code. If you give them the verification code, they’ll try to use it to create a Google Voice number linked to your phone number.”
Paul Bischoff, cybersecurity expert, indie game developer and editor at Comparitech said the Google Voice scam is one of the most sophisticated scams on Facebook Marketplace. Scammers solicit a 2FA code from your phone “under the pretense of ‘safety’ or ‘verification,’ ” said Bischoff. The expert adds that the frequency of this particular scam has been “ramping up” due to FCC’s recent regulations that tighten the grip on spam calls, making it much more difficult for spammers to target Americans with unwanted calls.
“As a result, clean local phone numbers are in high demand among spammers and scammers,” Bischoff said. To bypass these limitations, spammers are turning to scams such as the Google Voice scam to get hold of fresh and unused local numbers not registered as spam.
“If someone on Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp asks you for a 2FA code, then it’s very likely a scam. Do not give it to them. You should be suspicious of anyone who asks for your phone number in the first place, and never communicate with someone on Facebook Marketplace outside of Facebook Messenger. If you get scammed outside of Facebook, then Facebook has no recourse to help you. This goes for pretty much any marketplace (OfferUp, eBay, Amazon, etc.).”
Thankfully, you can link only one Google Voice account with an actual phone number. So, if a scammer claims your Google Voice account — or creates a new one — using your phone number, you can easily delink it and create a new one. You can also reclaim your old Google Voice number as long as you still have access to your physical phone. But the window to claim the number is short, so make sure you act within that period.
The bottom line is never to share verification codes and immediately report any buyer or seller if they try this scam.
Overpayment scams are common among sellers on the Facebook Marketplace. In this scam, the buyer pays more than the product’s final price and asks for a refund. You might not find anything wrong with this scenario at first glance, but quite a few things can go wrong.
First, the card that made the payment could be stolen, or the check is fake and banks have the right to retract this money. If you issue a refund for the overpayment, you essentially lose both the refund money and full payment.
Some buyers might even compel you to refund the rest, citing payments that never happened. They may also show fake transaction proofs to “prove” they sent the money. Never act in these situations until you receive the money first.
Fake giveaway scams often target the user’s personal information, which scammers might use for other cybercrimes. In this scam, fraudsters claim the victim has won a prize—all they need to do is fill out an online form with some personal information. Unsurprisingly, no one wins such giveaways, except the scammers after victims give away private data. This information can then be used to crack passwords of online accounts or steal your identity to create fraudulent accounts in your name.
If you are a seller that deals with pricey items, beware of the new insurance scam on Facebook Marketplace. Fraudulent buyers may contact you and ask you to ship your product. The buyers usually claim to pay the total shipping and handling charges. However, they would need you to pay a small sum as a refundable insurance fee. This insurance amount is often small compared to the item, so sellers are less likely to mind spending it in advance.
Once you pay the insurance amount, the fraudulent buyer may never contact you, and you would lose your money and time in the process.
Bait-and-switch is highly unethical but also common. The fraudulent seller often posts a tempting deal that would lure a vast number of people. However, when you try to contact the seller, they tell you the product is out of stock. They then offer you another product for a different price which is often a much worse deal than the initial one.
As the name suggests, the seller may never deliver your products after receiving the money. Scam sellers may present a plethora of excuses to dupe you into paying them before you receive the product. As a buyer, you should stick to trading locally and physically reviewing the products before buying them. Avoid using online payment methods outside cash or Facebook payment options.
How to spot a Facebook Marketplace scam?
Spotting a Facebook Marketplace scam isn’t difficult if you take care of a few points while using this platform:
- Always try buying from a local seller and physically verify the product before making payment.
- Avoid making payments through platforms other than Facebook Checkout or PayPal.
- Don’t fall for lucrative deals, as they are often scams.
- Don’t apply for giveaways on the Facebook Marketplace.
- Never share your one-time passwords and other personal information with a buyer or seller.
- If you meet the buyer or seller in public, make sure it is a well-lit public place or even a police station parking lot.
- Never ship items before you get the payment.
- Always check the buyer or seller’s profile before finalizing the deal. Recently created accounts are a big red flag that you should avoid.
What to do if you’ve been scammed on Facebook Marketplace?
Facebook’s Purchase Protection policy attempts to cover some of the many scams that happen over the platform. As a buyer, you can request Facebook for a refund if:
- You received a damaged or a different item.
- You didn’t receive your order.
- The seller failed to abide by Facebook’s refund policy.
Please note that the policy only applies to a few products and doesn’t include items like vehicles, gems, custom-made items and others.
Stay vigilant to stray clear of Facebook Marketplace scams
Facebook Marketplace has a vast portfolio of products, both used and new.While it can save you money, you don’t want to get lured into a scam. To avoid this, be cautious, buy and sell locally and always opt for safer payment methods that Facebook may protect. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.