Facebook Marketplace Scams Want Your Money – Here’s How to Stay Safe
Facebook Marketplace is a great way to both get rid of items you don’t need and make a little extra money in the process, with the added convenience of everything being connected to your Facebook account. But because Facebook is first and foremost a social media network, not an online marketplace, some of its consumer protections aren’t as strong as other sites. This makes Facebook Marketplace a popular target for scams. And it’s not just buyers who need to beware – if you use it for any reason, you need to be aware of Facebook Marketplace scams.
What is Facebook Marketplace?
If you’re not familiar with Facebook Marketplace, here’s a quick explanation of how it works. Hopefully you’re already aware of the social media giant Facebook. Facebook Marketplace is an online marketplace similar to Craigslist. Anyone with a Facebook account can list things for sale, browse items available for sale, and use Facebook’s built-in Messenger system to talk to potential buyers or sellers and arrange sales. It was originally set up so you could only shop in your local area. But it now offers a shipping option so that you can buy or sell items from Facebook users who aren’t nearby.
Facebook’s parent company, Meta, also recently launched Meta Pay, a payment system that you can use on Facebook Marketplace. It also claims that Meta Pay includes purchase protection in case your purchase is a scam. But purchase protection only applies for sellers that have onsite checkout. And since it’s still being rolled out and onsite checkout is mainly used by businesses right now, not many Facebook Marketplace sellers take Meta Pay. For most buyers and sellers on the platform, transactions are still done with cash or payment apps like Venmo and CashApp.
Facebook Marketplace Scams that Target Buyers
You’ve probably heard the phrase “buyer beware.” That’s especially true in these kinds of online marketplaces. Facebook Marketplace scams love to target hopeful buyers. Since you’re already ready to spend money, scammers hope to trick you into sending it to them. These are some of the ways scammers target buyers on Facebook Marketplace.
When you think of possible Facebook Marketplace scams, this is probably what you think of. Facebook Marketplace only requires a Facebook account in order to create listings. Scammers make fake Facebook accounts, steal images from real listings somewhere else, and list things for sale that they really don’t have. Then they try to convince you to pay for the thing before you’ve seen it, at which point they disappear with your money.
You can often spot fraudulent sellers with a little common sense. Every for sale listing shows the name and profile picture of the person who listed it, as well as they year they joined Facebook. If the account is less than a year old, beware. Also, like any time you’re shopping online, be suspicious of really great deals. Facebook Marketplace scams especially offer really great prices for vehicles. If it’s listed for sale for drastically less than it’s worth, it’s probably not your lucky day – just a scammer.
Requesting a Payment that’s Hard to Get Back
Credit cards have a lot of protections automatically to protect you from scams. Bank transfers or payment apps, though, do not. If you pay for an item via bank transfer and the seller takes your money and never gives you the item, it’s up to your bank if you get that money back. Different banks have different policies, and they may not help.
Facebook Marketplace scams also love to use payment apps like Zelle, Venmo, and CashApp to get paid for their non-existent item. They love it because these apps have no obligation to give you your money back at all. If you send money to a scammer through one of these apps, you won’t get it back.
Using PayPal’s “Friends and Family” Option
Many people trust PayPal, and for good reason. It’s been around for a long time and has good consumer protections in place. Often, people who are suspicious of using apps or bank transfers to send money to strangers for a purchase are more willing to send money via PayPal. PayPal has such a good reputation and good protections, it must be safe, right?
But, unfortunately, Facebook Marketplace scams can still defraud you using PayPal. When you send money to someone, you can choose whether this is for a purchase or if you’re sending money to friends and family. Fraudulent sellers will ask you to use the “friends and family” option so they don’t have to pay the fee associated with the “purchase” option. It seems like a reasonable request. But if you select “friends and family,” PayPal treats it like a money transfer, not a purchase. If they run away with your money, the protections PayPal has for purchases won’t apply.
Facebook Marketplace Scams that Target Sellers
Buyers aren’t the only ones who get targeted by Facebook Marketplace scams. Even if you’re a seller, scammers still have tricks to steal your money. And if you’re a seller, you’re at additional risk. Scammers aren’t always after sellers’ money – sometimes they’re targeting your phone number or even your identity. Here are their favorite tricks.
Fraudulent Shipping Links
You have something for sale on Facebook Marketplace. A potential buyer messages you and says they really want to buy it, but they aren’t nearby – would you be willing to ship it to them with a courier service? They will pay you for the courier service too, of course. On its surface, that sounds reasonable. Facebook Marketplace even allows you to offer items for shipping, so a buyer might also reach out and say they want it shipped, but they want you to use their preferred shipping service.
Either way, they will send you a link so you can get the shipping set up for them. But the link is a phishing link. Any information you enter on that website, including payment information, will be stolen and sent to the scammer. You think you’re paying for shipping for the item you just sold – in reality, you’re paying for whatever the scammer feels like charging to your card.
Other Money Tricks
Just because a link isn’t involved doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Fake buyers have a ton of tricks they can use on unwitting sellers. Many of them aren’t exclusive to Facebook Marketplace scams, either – you can see these types of tricks in all kinds of scams.
One common trick is the “money forwarding” scam. They claim they’ve arranged shipping and send you a full payment for your item, plus some extra for shipping. Then they ask you to send the extra money to the person or service who’s going to be delivering the item. Any money you send to the “delivery service” goes straight to the scammer – and the buyer’s original payment never actually ends up in your account.
Another trick is the overpayment scam. The buyer sends you money for the item, but they accidentally sent you too much. Now they want you to refund the difference. It seems like a reasonable request. But just like in the money forwarding scam, when you refund the difference, it comes out of your pocket, and the buyer’s original payment never actually gets to you.
“Verifying” You with a Code
You have an item for sale on Facebook Marketplace, and a buyer says they’re interested. But they know there are a lot of Facebook Marketplace scams around, so they want to verify you’re real before they buy anything. You know there are scams out there too, so that’s reasonable. And their verification method doesn’t sound hard. They want your phone number, and then they’ll text you a code. You send the code back to them on Facebook Messenger. Easy and harmless, right?
I’m sure you can guess that it’s not harmless. What the scammer is actually doing is setting up a Google Voice number linked to your phone number. When you send them that code, they can finish the setup and confirm the account. Now they can use that Google Voice number to disguise their own phone number or even pretend to be you. And if they get both the code and additional information about you, they could get enough information to open new accounts in your name.
Staying Safe on Facebook Marketplace
Facebook Marketplace is a great tool for both people looking to buy things and people looking to get rid of things. You don’t have to swear off using it to stay safe from Facebook Marketplace scams – but you do need to be aware and follow some best practices.
If you’re looking to buy, it’s safest to stick to local items you can pick up yourself. If you need something shipped, stick to a marketplace with a trustworthy built-in payment system like Amazon or eBay. Stick to giving the seller cash when you meet if you can. If you’re going to use an app, wait to send the money until you’re with the seller and can see the item. And before you message a seller in the first place, check for anything suspicious. How old is the seller’s account? Is the price really, really good? You can even run a reverse image search to see if any of the listing images were stolen from another listing.
If you’re trying to sell, it’s safest to stick to local pickup only – list items you want to ship on eBay. If you must ship things, use only trusted services like USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL, and never let the buyer pick the shipping method. Never accept payments for more than you’re charging, even if they have a good reason, and never forward any of a buyer’s payment to anyone. Overall, though, the best way to avoid any funny money tricks is to accept only cash when the buyer picks up the item.
Finally, for everyone, trust your gut. If you feel pressured like something is off about a transaction, an item, or a buyer or seller, listen to that feeling. It’s better to back out of a deal than to get scammed.
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