The Facebook Marketplace has been a major player in this past year, where it reached one billion monthly active users in Q1 2021 in over 200 locations worldwide. On Facebook Marketplace, you can sell and buy items directly through your Facebook account. Whether you are looking for a new apartment to rent or purchase second-hand luxury goods, you can easily find them on the Marketplace. The platform's popularity skyrocketed in 2020 when it offered no seller fees and US Postal Service integration for long-distance delivery.
Just like any other marketplace, scammers are increasingly targeting people through the Facebook Marketplace. Unlike other selling platforms, Facebook Marketplace does not have customer service and relies on buyers and sellers directly interacting. Once a buyer contacts you, you'll be put in a chat with them, giving scammers the chance to pressure you into falling for their fraud. They're also becoming more sophisticated in their methods, so it's important to be aware of the signs that something may be amiss. Here are some common Facebook Marketplace scams and tips on how to protect yourself from scammers.
Google Voice Scam
Scammers are using Facebook Marketplace to leverage other types of fraud on other platforms. A scam artist would agree to buy an item but before they commit to meeting you locally, they are requesting your phone number to "verify" that you are a real person. In hindsight, this seems to be a legitimate request. But then, they proceed to ask you for the verification code that you received via text message. If you give them that verification code, they'll try to use it to create a Google Voice number linked to your phone number. With your real phone number now attached to their fake Google Voice number, they can engage in all sorts of fraud and illegal activity without being traced back to them. Or worse, the scam artist may be able to gather personal information about you, through your Facebook account, and they could pretend to be you to access your accounts or open new accounts in your name.
If you were a victim of this, please follow these steps from Google to reclaim your number.
One of the most popular payment methods on Facebook Marketplace local deals has been Zelle, which is a peer-to-peer money transfer service with an instant transaction system. Unfortunately, these transactions are also irreversible, making them perfect for scammers. A scam artist would agree to buy an item and would offer to pay upfront to hold the item until their significant other will pick it up from you later. Now, there are a few variations to this scam but it all ends with you having to Zelle the "buyer" additional funds to cover the cost of upgrading to a business account. So here is an example, you will receive a fraudulent email imitating an official email from Zelle saying that you have pending funds but since your Zelle account is "limited and not a business account" the buyer needs to send an extra $200 so it would "enable your account to business". This is when the scam artist would pressure you to Zelle them $200 because their initial Zelle payment (for the item they are buying) is "tied up".
Please note Zelle does not offer protection against unauthorized transactions and once the money is sent, it's gone for good. In fact, Zelle does not offer business accounts. If you receive an email claiming to be from Zelle, pay attention to the grammar and spelling. The sender's domain name will also probably be AOL or Gmail for example, email@example.com.
Shipping Scam (For Sellers)
The shipping scam is another popular method scammers are using on Facebook Marketplace. The scam artist will agree to buy an item but instead of picking it up, they will ask you to ship the item to them. They will also insist on paying through PayPal or Venmo and may even send you a fake screenshot as "proof" of payment. Once you've shipped the item, you'll quickly realize that the payment was never processed and there's no way to get your item back.
Also, make sure you check out: 10 Great Marketplaces Every Reseller Should Consider
If you're shipping an item, only accept payments through methods that offer buyer protection, such as PayPal (goods & services) or a credit card. Paypal friends and family do not offer any protection and should be avoided. Also, do not ship an item until the payment has cleared, and always get a tracking number for your shipment.
Shipping Scam (For Buyers)
Another shipping scam that is popular on Facebook Marketplace is when the scam artist will pose as a seller and list an item that is either too good to be true or not available in your area. They will then offer to ship the item to you and when you agree to buy it, they will ask you to pay through PayPal (friends and family) or Venmo. The scammer proceeds to give you a USPS tracking number but, the tracking will update in 24-48 hours. After 48 hours, you realize there is no tracking update or the number is fake.
Another twist to this scam is the fraudster would mail something useless to "you" but use a different address in the same town. Even though your order hasn't arrived, you'll get an email notification that it has. When you try to resolve the problem with the seller, they will quickly dismiss you since it appears as though the item was "delivered" on their side.
To avoid this fraud, thoroughly examine the seller's profile and feedback. Also, use Facebook's payment option rather than using an external 3rd party.
Fake Listings Scam
Scammers will also create fake listings for popular items, using stolen photos and low prices to lure in unsuspecting buyers. Once you message the "seller", they will send you a link to purchase the item through an online store or marketplace, such as eBay or Amazon. The link will usually be masked so it looks like the official site but it will be a fake website set up by the scammer to collect your payment information. Or, you may be asked to pay by wire transfer or gift card, which are both irreversible forms of payment.
To avoid this scam, only buy items from people you know or from reputable websites. If you're unsure about a listing, do a reverse image search of the photos to see if they've been stolen from another site. You can also check the seller's profile to see if they have any other listings or if they're a new user.
This scam applies to sellers who ship their products. Scammer purchase your product, payment cleared and you shipped it out. A few days later you receive two negative balances on your Facebook fund: one for the cost of the item and a $20 chargeback fee. The worst part, you never saw a claim opened and never get a chance to appeal your case. The scammer filed a dispute with their bank (or credit card) as an "item not received" or "item not as described", and unfortunately, per Facebook's policy this does not cover their purchase protection claim. The $20 chargeback is from the bank and it's ultimately up to their discretion to apply the fee.
This is a scam that's hard to avoid but if it happens to you, take screenshots of everything, report it to Facebook support and explain what happened. Keep reaching out to them, and they are more likely to pay you back, but it might take up to three months.
Prepaid Shipping Label Scam
This is a relatively new scam that's becoming more popular on Facebook Marketplace. The scammer will offer to send you a prepaid shipping address label. This is often done for larger items that would be expensive to ship, such as computer monitors. The scammer will say that they used a service that creates the label for you and all you have to do is print it out and attach it to your package.
Once you've shipped the item, the scammer will contact the delivery company and changes the shipping address. Then, the scammer 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.
To avoid this scam, use your own shipping labels. If the item is too large to ship on your own, use a shipping company, like UPS, that offers a packing service.
This is a common scam on Facebook Marketplace and one that is often used in conjunction with other scams. The scammer will send you an overpayment for the item you're selling, usually through PayPal or Venmo. They may even send you a fake shipping label to further convince you that they're legitimate. Once you've shipped the item, the buyer will contact you saying there was a mistake and that they overpaid you. They'll ask for a refund of the overage, usually through wire transfer or gift card. Of course, once you've sent them the refund, you'll find out that the initial payment was fake and you're out both the item and the money.
To avoid this scam, don't ship an item until you've received payment and the funds have cleared. If you're using PayPal, make sure the buyer has a verified account. You can also ask for a tracking number for the shipping label to ensure that it's legitimate. Finally, don't accept overpayments - if someone tries to do this, report it to Facebook immediately.
Counterfeit Cash Scam
This does not happen too often but worth knowing that there are fake $10, $20, and even $50 bills that fraudsters are using to purchase on Facebook Marketplace local transactions. If you accept cash for an item and later find out that the bill is fake, you're out both the item and the money. However, you must inform the authorities immediately, and attempting to deposit this money into your bank account is not advisable.
Keep an eye on how much money they give you, and triple-check the amount. Some scammers may try to deceive you by "double" counting the money in front of your face.
To avoid this scam, purchase a money marker that you can get at Walmart, Target, Staples, or Office Depot. If possible, have them meet you in a well-lit and populated area. Scammers are also wary of parking lots at police stations since they know that you'll be able to see their license plate. Inspect the bill carefully before accepting it - if it looks fake, don't take it.
As you can see, there are a variety of scams that Facebook marketplace scammers use to try and take advantage of unsuspecting Facebook users. If you are seeing red flags and your gut is telling you something is off, trust your instincts and don't go through with the sale. It's not worth risking your safety or losing your hard-earned money to a scammer. I would strongly advise selling high-value items on a genuine selling platform such as eBay, Poshmark, or Mercari. These platforms have built-in protections against scammers and also offer buyer (and seller) protection in case something goes wrong with the sale.
There may be several instances when it is more convenient to acquire something from a person's home or personal area. For example, large furniture may need a specific vehicle, and it would be impossible for both people to travel to a central, public location in such a vehicle. Bring someone with you if you must go to someone's house or private space to trade products. It can't prevent every negative encounter, but it does lower the danger considerably.
If you do find yourself the victim of a Facebook marketplace scam, the best thing you can do is report it to Facebook support and file a police report if appropriate. By taking these measures, you can help protect yourself and others from becoming victims of Facebook marketplace scams. Thanks for reading! If there are any tips you’d like to share with the community feel free to leave your comments below.