Recognizing common Facebook Marketplace scams

Anton P. | November 21, 2022

Facebook Marketplace scams target buyers and sellers with ads for non-existent items or allegedly overpaying for goods. Thus, if you notice an intriguing posting that seems too good to be true, it might just be fake.

In other cases, buyers might make odd requirements, like sending fake transaction details. Payment methods also play a role, especially regarding buyer purchase protection.

So, let’s see common Facebook Marketplace scams and red flags that the potential buyer or seller is unreliable.

How do Facebook Marketplace scams work?

Facebook Marketplace scams target Facebook users who post or buy items shared with their communities. Over time, Facebook Marketplace has evolved into a hotspot for getting rid of old goods.

You can find special deals, with many people selling an item for a desirable price. Thus, acting hastily when you stumble upon a bargain is easy. Luring potential buyers with appealing deals is something known as bait and switch. For example, an ingenuine seller could resell concert tickets that turn out to be fake.

However, Facebook Marketplace scams can put victims in physical danger, as seen in fake postings of motorbikes.

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What is Facebook checkout?

Facebook checkout is a feature letting clients buy goods from various stores without creating a separate account. Such integration reduces friction and delivers a more user-friendly experience.

This shipping and checkout option is available in Facebook Marketplace, but only in several countries. Purchase Protection also covers eligible transactions.

Common Facebook Marketplace scams

Scams on Facebook Marketplace tend to follow specific scripts and deception tactics. Here are the most popular ways someone might try to trick you.

  1. Fake items posted for sale

How it works: Selling items that do not exist is likely one of the most popular Facebook Marketplace scams. People post ads for goods they might possess but do not intend to let go.

Thus, sellers might satisfy all buyers’ requirements to identify whether the seller actually has the item. For instance, sellers might provide additional photos from various angles.

How to recognize it: Knowing whether an item for sale is fake is difficult. It might be easier if the seller does not cooperate with you in providing details. However, if the seller seems to be helpful, there are two ways to predict that you won’t receive the sold item:

  • Check the sellers’ Facebook accounts. Do they look genuine? Many Facebook Marketplace scams occur via fake accounts featuring aliases.
  • If a Facebook profile has very few friends and has been created recently, its owners could be scammers.
  • Too good-to-be-true deals indicate that you have stumbled upon one of the Facebook Marketplace scams.
  1. Insisting on paying via P2P apps

How it works: Sellers performing Facebook Marketplace scams request that buyers transfer money directly to their accounts. Zelle or CashApp are also peer-to-peer payment systems that scammers prefer.

P2P payments offer little protection against fraud if victims make the transactions deliberately. Thus, there might be no way to get money back through such systems.

Other preferred payments for Facebook Marketplace scams include gift cards or wire transfers.

How to recognize it: This type of Facebook Marketplace scam is relatively simple to detect. If a person selling an item insists on gift cards, wire transfers, or P2P payments, take it as a red flag.

  1. Low-quality or damaged products

How it works: Such Facebook Marketplace scams deliver the sold goods to their buyers. However, the item for sale arrives in poor condition.

Sellers could conceal defects by taking photos from particular angles. The most troublesome deals likely involve electronics. Sellers could swap advertised smartphones or laptops with nonfunctional ones.

How to recognize it: It is possible to avoid the unpleasant surprises of receiving low-quality items from Facebook Marketplace.

  • If the seller is local, arrange a meeting in person (preferably in a public place). Look through the item and check if everything works and looks as intended.
  • You can require videos or photos showcasing the item if the seller is not local.
  • Make the payment through a system offering purchase protection.
  1. Attempts to steal personal information

How it works: Facebook Marketplace scams could post items only to get personal information from interested buyers.

Sellers might require a buyer’s phone number, physical address, email address, and bank information. Scammers disappear after receiving such details and could exploit stolen data for crimes like synthetic identity theft.

How to recognize it: You should first check the sellers or buyers’ social media profiles. Look for signs that the account might be fake or created recently. Also, reveal as little as possible about yourself.

  1. Delivery and insurance fee scams

How it works: These Facebook Marketplace scams involve fraudulent buyers contacting genuine sellers. The allegedly interested buyers claim to pay an item shipping fee but ask sellers to cover insurance.

Scammers could also send fake invoices or confirmation emails to sellers, making the story more convincing.

How to recognize it: Sellers should be suspicious of buyers requiring insurance fees and insisting they cover them. In general, asking sellers or buyers to visit unknown third-party sites is also a red flag.

  1. Buyer intentionally overpays

How it works: The fraudulent buyer finds a reason to allegedly overpay for the item for sale. They could provide a fake invoice or other proof of payment.

Then, they ask the seller to return the difference. However, the buyer did not make the initial payment or had refunded it.

How to recognize it: People are usually careful with their money. Also, sending more than necessary might not be done out of good intentions. So, think twice before returning specific amounts to buyers.

  1. Google Voice number scams

How it works: These Facebook Marketplace scams ask for the target’s phone number for various reasons, like scheduling a pick-up time. Then, they use the phone number to register for a Google Voice account.

If you give them the verification code (delivered to your phone), scammers create a Google Voice account. The Federal Trade Commission has also listed a warning for this type of fraudulent activity.

How to recognize it: If you receive odd verification messages from Google Voice, ignore them. Most importantly, never hand codes over to scammers.

Facebook Marketplace scams: main things to remember

Facebook Marketplace scams refer to dishonest and fraudulent attempts to buy or sell items. To ensure you do not get scammed on Facebook, remember these tips:

  • Check Facebook profiles to ensure that is a real person.
  • Pay for items only through reliable methods like PayPal or Facebook checkout.
  • See whether any payment you choose offers buyer protection.
  • Schedule meetings with sellers or buyers in public places.
  • Find out as much as possible about the item before making a purchase.
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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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