Facebook Marketplace is one of the best platforms for selling items locally. All you need is a Facebook account (and pictures of the item you want to sell if you’re a seller), and you’re good to go.
The problem is the marketplace doesn’t have its own payment option, and there is no solid buyer/seller protection policy for most items.
Buyers and sellers have to vet each other without the platform’s help. Large parts of the transactions also have to take place outside the platform, which makes it easy for malicious individuals to pull off scams.
Can I Get Scammed On Facebook Marketplace?
You can get scammed on Facebook Marketplace if you are not keen to verify the identity of the person on the other end of the transaction.
The lack of entry barriers into the Facebook Marketplace makes it easy for scammers to join the platform and pose as genuine buyers or sellers.
Don’t forget to look out for these Facebook Marketplace Red Flags to avoid getting scammed.
Common Facebook Marketplace Scams to Watch Out For
Con artists keep coming up with new ways to scam innocent sellers and buyers on Facebook Marketplace. So it’s impossible to predict what’s going to hit you.
However, some scams are easier to pull off and are, as a result, more prevalent than others. Read on for five of the most widespread ones and how to avoid them.
1. Suspiciously cheap rental listings
If you are on Facebook Marketplace shopping around for rental properties, be wary of playing into the hands of fraudulent individuals posing as landlords, agents, and managers.
All the scammers want from you is some deposit – or plus a few months’ rent if you’re gullible enough – before taking to the hills.
One telltale sign that you are dealing with a scammer is if the listed property looks too good for the price they’re leasing it for.
Most victims tend to think that by asking to be shown the property in person, they will be able to work out and evade a scam, which doesn’t always work.
Experienced con artists are smarter and more resilient than that. They will know when you are scanning them. Some are even willing to trespass if that’s all it takes to earn your full trust.
2. The shipping insurance scam
Shipping insurance on sites such as eBay is strictly to protect the seller, not the buyer. Facebook Marketplace, however, does not offer shipping and therefore has no such thing as shipping insurance.
The shipping insurance scam happens when a fake buyer on Facebook Marketplace talks you, the seller, into covering “shipping insurance” for an item they want to buy from you.
Most of the time, this is a high-value item, which would guarantee a profit even with the insurance charge included.
If you agree to the request, the con artist will send you an invoice of the charge and disappear immediately after you pay it.
3. The bait-and-switch scam
The bait-and-switch scam occurs when a Facebook Marketplace seller advertises an item at an incredibly low price only to increase the price or provide an inferior alternative when a customer shows up.
It is an activity you can sue for, so most sellers who attempt this scam hide behind fake Facebook accounts.
It’s not uncommon for actual sellers with real accounts to do it either; the execution of this type of scam is rather smooth and will go unnoticed by most buyers.
Here is an example of a slick switch-and-bait scam:
You see a really nice smartphone on Facebook Marketplace going for $120, so you decide to visit the seller’s store the next day.
When you get there, the phone is “gone,” but the seller has options at the ready. The alternatives are a mix of blatantly inferior phones going for the same price and more expensive options.
The seller hopes that you will buy one of the inferior phones going for $120 since you have the money or a $200+ or $300+ option if you are more interested in the specs.
You will probably pay for one of the phones and walk home feeling unlucky when in the real sense, the smartphone you saw in the marketplace didn’t exist in the first place.
4. Broken items scam
Broken items are often sold on Facebook Marketplace. This scam works when the buyer fails to inspect the item before purchasing it, or the defect is too minute or hidden to identify with a surface assessment.
5. Gift card scam
One of the oldest scams in the book is taking payment for an item and not delivering it. Many online shoppers are aware of this and will evade it easily.
The use of gift cards as a form of payment, however, makes it easier for the seller to execute the scam and harder for the buyer to recover their money. Gift cards are anonymous, that’s why!
As a buyer, it’s good to remember that purchasing a gift card through a credit card or some other non-anonymous means doesn’t make the gift card traceable.
How to Avoid Being Scammed on Facebook Marketplace
Here are a few helpful tips on how to not get scammed on Facebook Marketplace.
1. Avoid communicating outside Facebook
Since Facebook’s platform isn’t an all-around marketplace, con artists use this as an excuse to lure unsuspecting prey onto third-party chat apps for easier swindling.
You want to be careful with someone who doesn’t want to chat you up on Facebook. Because why? There is no better place to have a full-on conversation with pictures, audios, and videos than Facebook.
When they ask to take the transaction away from Facebook, it’s probably because they want to wipe out their digital paper trail that you may use against them afterward.
2. Do not pay before seeing the item
If you can meet with the Facebook Marketplace seller in person, that’s the time to pay for the item.
Some sellers will ask you to pay to hold the item you just bought. Unfortunately, this is also what someone with no intention to deliver the item would say.
Paying only after seeing the item protects you from this and the prospect of paying for an old, defective, or bootleg product.
3. Double-check deals that seem too good to be true
Underpriced items are usually old, broken, stolen, or non-existent. If the deal is too sweet, research the product’s market price and make a comparison. You might also want to message the seller and ask why their pricing is so low.
They could be in a financial fix or trying to get rid of something they no longer need, so it’s not always wise to back off early. It’s, however, judicious to proceed with caution.
4. Use Facebook Checkout
Facebook offers Purchase Protection only for purchases made with Checkout.
In essence, Checkout gives you the right to complain to Facebook about a scam and expect them to mediate your dispute.
5. Always review the other party’s profile
Even the most daring scammer will want to keep a low profile when executing their scheme. So the most obvious thing for them to do is to use a Facebook profile that doesn’t reveal their identity.
It’s pretty easy to tell a genuine Facebook profile from a fake one. Fake accounts typically have these characteristics:
- The display photo is a picture of a model or celebrity
- The posts have no personal content
- The post comments are from people who seem not to share any personal relationship with the person
- There are few to no photos in the Photos section
- The name in the URL is different
- There is a sudden content disconnect or content shift (For cases of hacked accounts)
- There are lots of recent activities and no dated activity
Additional reading: How to Not Get Scammed on Facebook Marketplace
What To Do If You Get Scammed on Facebook Marketplace
Falling into a scammer’s trap may leave you feeling fooled and helpless. But it doesn’t automatically translate to an irreversible loss of money.
If your purchase passes as a Protected Purchase, you can always file a claim with Facebook. Your purchase is protected by the platform’s Purchase Protection policies if:
- The item is not received 48 hours (16 days if bought from an individual seller) after the estimated date of arrival
- The item is damaged, missing major parts, or different
- The seller fails to follow their refund policy
Purchases that are not covered under Protected Purchase include vehicles, real estate, services, donations, perishable items, financial products, antiques and collectibles, tickets, products prohibited by Facebook’s Commerce Policies, etc. For scams involving such items, consider contacting the police.
Additional reading: I Got Scammed on Facebook Marketplace, What Can I do?
Facebook Marketplace scams are meant to be devious, but something will always give them away. The idea is to be alert and aware of the many ways you can be scammed on the platform. Hopefully, you can now identify a scam and avoid it or get your money back if you are a victim already.
More Articles About Facebook Marketplace: