Facebook Marketplace Scams: How to Recognize Them and Protect Yourself

Brandon King
November 21, 2023
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Photo by Austin Distel

Facebook Marketplace first started making waves in 2016. It’s now used by millions of people to sell and buy items of all kinds. People buy products, sell services, and even rent houses through Facebook Marketplace every day.

There are tons of genuine people who use Facebook Marketplace. The problem is there are also tons of scammers – and all they want is to steal your hard-earned cash.

In 2021 alone, about 17 percent of the people who used Marketplace were scammed. Every minute of the day, six fake accounts were made. Those are impressive numbers that illustrate the importance of protecting yourself.

At the same time, Facebook Marketplace is huge for legitimate users. One billion people access this online shopping destination every month.

Today, we’re going to be looking at Facebook Marketplace scams. We’ll explain what they are, who is targeted, and what occurs when someone falls for a scam. In addition, we’ll share some tips for protecting yourself while using the Facebook Marketplace.

So strap in and keep reading. We’ll make sure you’re totally safe while using one of the largest shopping platforms on the Internet.

What Are Facebook Marketplace Scams?

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Photo by Thought Catalog

There are many techniques used by scammers on Facebook Marketplace. Some scammers will “sell” items and services that they do not have, but you only find out that’s the case when you try to get what you paid for.

Others will use phishing scams for would-be buyers. Scammers also tend to put up expensive items at low prices to get people to communicate with them. Then, when they do get a buyer, they’ll try to steal your information.

In the final quarter of 2022, Facebook tackled almost 1.5 billion bad accounts. It just goes to show how many people are out there trying to get one over on legitimate users.

Facebook Marketplace scams are super common and anyone who uses the platform will likely run into one at some point.

You need to understand how to stay safe, work with only genuine users, and be on the lookout for red flags that warn you not to move forward.

✎ Related: Fake online stores and how to spot them ➔

Who Do Facebook Marketplace Scams Target?

You might think that as a seller, you’re in the clear and nobody will scam you. This is not true. There are scams targeted at both sellers and buyers.

Some scams hope to get access to your services and products for free. Others want you to pay for fraudulent items. Many just look to steal your identity.

Below is a comprehensive list of some of the most common scams you could run into on Facebook Marketplace.

Scams Targeting Sellers:

  • Quick interest: If you listed something expensive a couple of minutes back and someone wants you to email them about the purchase, this is usually a scam. Many scammers want to email instead of talk on the site.
  • QR code use: Many of these scams send you to another site to steal your information. After you enter your info, bank account information or details about your identity will be shared.
  • Prepaid shipping labels: Buyers get control over any delivery when they buy the shipping label. They can move forward and say the package wasn’t received. Never use prepaid shipping labels for Marketplace sales.
  • Stolen credit card use: Using a stolen credit card is a common scam. Once the bank catches on, you’ll have no product and no money. Avoid wire transfers or money through Cash App and Venmo. Instead, stick to Facebook Checkout, PayPal, or cash.
  • Overpayment: For example, a buyer says they’ll pay $50 for something and then sends you $100 as an “accidental” overpayment. They then ask you to send back the difference. The payment is fake and you’ll be out the entire $100 in the end.
  • Claims of lost packages: Many scammers buy and receive an item but say it never made it to their home. Paying to have tracking is important, even if it is a bit more expensive, as it protects you from this scam.

Scams Targeting Buyers:

  • Vehicle deposit scams: Always ask for the vehicle identification number (VIN) and check sites like AutoCheck or CARFAX before making a vehicle purchase or making any sort of deposit. Verify the seller’s name and be sure they have a history on the site.
  • Fake home rentals: Some people list homes that they do not own. If you want to rent, check with trusted sources to be sure the deal is legit. Many rentals are listed in several spots so check Vrbo, Airbnb, and more.
  • Faulty products: This is common with electronics. Be sure the product works the way you want before you pay. You can ask for a video of the item being used or ask to plug it in and test it. If you’re looking for Apple products, get the IMEI or serial number and verify with the company that the item is registered to the person who is selling it.
  • Counterfeit items: Many people make tons of money selling counterfeit items. If you want authentic products, make sure to ask for a stamp or certification of authenticity. Don’t pay until you’re satisfied that it’s real.
  • Gift card payment requirements: This is a common scam. The sellers will tell you to buy a gift card instead of meeting them in person to pay. Gift cards aren’t protected so you can be scammed out of money and not get the product.
  • Bait and switch situations: Maybe you find the perfect item at a great price. You message the seller and they say it’s out of stock. They’ll then try to sell you something else but at a much higher price.
  • Fake giveaways: Lots of giveaways on Facebook have a link that takes you off the platform. The problem is this is often a way to steal your information or install malware on your device. Be careful leaving the social media site. If something looks suspicious, don’t click!

Scams Targeting Everyone:

  • The requirement to click links: This is a phishing scam. There’s no reason for you to click a link to share needed information. Never click links unless you fully trust the person sending them.
  • Asking for verification codes: Many scammers set up Google voice numbers. When you send the verification code, it lets them piggyback the Google number onto your actual phone number. They can authenticate as you and take over your account.
  • Needing your phone number: Someone with your phone number and name can get into your account. Stay in Messenger for your transactions and avoid giving up private info. Password managers are also useful so you can make use of complex passwords.
  • Sending items before payments are received: Some buyers will say they need the item now but will pay you later. Never agree to this. You will not get the promised payment.
  • Fake Facebook accounts: Fake accounts often have no photo, are very new, or have no more than a few friends. Always look at the profile to see if the person has friends and a history on Facebook.

What Happens If You Fall for a Facebook Marketplace Scam?

When someone scams you, they may be doing it to gain access to your identity or they might wish to steal money from you.

If you’ve been scammed on Facebook Marketplace, the first thing you need to do is slow down and breathe. Realize that there are steps you can take as you move forward.

Before you contact Facebook and let them know what happened, reach out to local law enforcement so they are aware of the crime. Other avenues that may be helpful include the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.

After you do this, you can head back to Facebook. The company is well aware of the increasing number of scammers and has implemented a Purchase Protection policy to protect people.

Below are the situations where this policy comes into play:

  • Something you ordered was never received.
  • The product you got was different than advertised or arrived damaged.
  • The seller did not use Facebook’s refund policy.
  • You did not authorize the purchase. This often occurs if someone hacked your Facebook account and used it to make a purchase.

If you speak to the seller but they do not communicate back, reach out to Facebook and ask for a refund. In addition, report the seller or buyer so Facebook is aware that they are a scammer.

From Marketplace, go to the left side of the screen. Look for the listing of the person who needs to be reported and choose their name. Click on “More Options” and select “Report Seller.” Instructions will pop up to help you report them.

You may be asked for evidence proving this person scammed you. If Facebook agrees that you were scammed, the account of the other person will be blocked and they will no longer be allowed to log in.

How to Protect Yourself from Scams on Facebook Marketplace

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Photo by Erik Mclean

Have you been scammed by someone on Facebook Marketplace? Your email, bank account, and other online accounts could be at risk. However, there are methods to prevent this from happening again in the future.

Sign Up for Identity Theft Protection

Many scammers want to get your money, but that isn’t the only thing they’re trying to steal. Getting access to your identity lets them do things like take over your Facebook profile or access your bank account. This can get messy fast.

One of the best methods to prevent scams is to sign up for identity theft protection. This keeps your identity secure even when scammers try to access it. We recommend using Aura since it’s the platform we’ve tested against all others and provides the best protection. 

This kind of protection monitors your online accounts and finances for personal information and signs of fraud. If someone tries to get into your accounts or steal your cash, you’ll be alerted so you can prevent it from happening.

Avoid Deals That Seem Too Good to Be True

Scammers know that when people see an outrageously good deal, it can cause them to drop their defenses.

There’s a simple rule you should follow to avoid ending up in a sticky situation: If the deal is too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.

Keep Up with Your Bank Statements and Credit Report

Scammers want to get into your accounts – especially if those accounts involve money.

Watch for signs that someone is after your identity, such as strange accounts you don’t recognize or charges on your bank statement that you didn’t make.

As mentioned, an identity theft protection service can help by alerting you if there are any signs of fraud.

Use Two-Factor Authentication

On Facebook and other sites, it’s a good idea to take advantage of two-factor authentication. If someone tries to log into your account, they will need a code to do so.

However, someone can get past this if they have access to your phone or tablet. It’s important not to share these codes as it will give them the ability to get into your account.

Using an authenticator app like Okta or Google Authenticator is a good way to keep your information private.

Implement Virus Protection

Make sure you’re protected from viruses on all your digital devices from personal computers to phones and tablets.

It’s always possible that you’ll accidentally open a spam link. With protection on your device, you don’t need to worry that your personal information will be shared.

Set Up Fraud Alerts on Bank and Credit Card Accounts

Make sure you have implemented any fraud alerts available for your financial accounts.

If someone gets into your account without your permission, you’ll get an alert and can take care of the situation immediately.

Final Thoughts

Facebook Marketplace is a great tool for anyone who wants to buy or sell online. However, scammers are present and it’s essential to protect yourself from their schemes.

Making use of identity theft protection through services like Aura is one of the best ways to avoid scammers on Facebook Marketplace and beyond. You should also follow the other tips above to make sure you only have a positive experience on the platform.

There’s no reason to avoid such an impressive Facebook Marketplace, but always protect yourself. Watch for red flags and keep safe in all your transactions. You’ll be glad you did.

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