How to spot Facebook Marketplace scams

Facebook Marketplace has over 250 million shops and over 1 billion purchases per month. It’s a go-to place for shoppers to buy and sell goods. You’ll find everything from smartphones and furniture to beauty products and games. It’s a busy, easy-to-access online marketplace that’s a magnet for scammers. If you’ve used Facebook Marketplace, you’ve seen scam messages. Use the tips below to avoid falling for that too-good-to-be-true deal on a top Chromebook and other items.

Why do Facebook Marketplace scams happen?

Facebook Marketplace allows anyone with a Facebook account to buy, sell, or trade goods. Since Facebook doesn’t verify sellers, scammers can post as someone else and lure customers into buying fake or defective items. Unlike Amazon, Facebook Marketplace bridges the gap between buyers and sellers and connects them via Messenger. It makes buyers and sellers vulnerable and exposes them to scammers.

Facebook Marketplace scams may look convincing. But when you become aware of the red flags, it’s easy to connect the dots and spot fraudsters on the platform. Here’s how to save time and money by spotting Facebook Marketplace scams.

Check the seller’s profile

Check the seller’s info page before sending them a message. If you don’t see a profile picture, image banner, or past Marketplace listings, the seller is probably a fake and trying to scam you on the platform.

about section of a facebook selling profile with the personal information blurred out. It shows they have 12 marketplace listings and joined Facebook in 2020.

Low price on a high-ticket item

Does a seller promise a new high-end Android phone for $200? Or did you come across an AirPods Max for $100, which usually retails for $549? Don’t fall for high-ticket items listed with a low price tag. Amazon’s best Black Friday deals don’t offer such high discounts on popular items. You’ll either get a counterfeit product or won’t receive it.

Keep a close eye on such products. Some sellers use a low price to get your attention and then try to sell another expensive item or the same one at a higher price. The trick is known as bait and switch.

Sellers ask you to pay on another platform

Only use trusted payment methods like PayPal or Facebook Checkout to complete the purchase. These methods are secured by purchase protection, and you’ll get a refund if you don’t receive a product. If a seller insists on receiving payments through Venmo, CashApp, or crypto, it’s a red flag. Some sellers promise a discount for using another platform for payments. Don’t fall for these traps.

The Facebook app on a phone, which is sitting next to a laptop

Source: Unsplash

Buyers or sellers ask to use another platform for conversations

Both buyers and sellers should stick to the Facebook Marketplace for communication. If a seller asks you to move to another messaging app like Telegram or Signal, refuse and avoid the scammer.

Sellers refuse to meet in person

Meeting the seller in person allows you to examine the product before paying. If the seller lives in the same area or city and refuses to meet you to check the item, avoid such listings on Marketplace.

Even when you meet the seller in person, set up the meeting in a public place during the day. We recommend bringing a friend or an expert to check the product.

Sellers ask for a small payment upfront

A graphic with the text 'scam alert' against a red background.

Source: Pixabay

The seller may ask you to make a small payment upfront to hold the product. Chances are the person asks other buyers to do the same for the exact product. If you rent a home or car, brokers may ask you to pay a deposit upfront to confirm the purchase. Avoid such sellers, but if you choose to go ahead, use the official Facebook Pay payment method.

Facebook Marketplace has become a preferred place to post rental properties. Avoid sellers that ask for irrelevant charges, like background check fees or paperwork charges. If possible, visit the property or ask someone you know in the area to visit it and to confirm it’s legitimate. The Marketplace is packed with fake sellers posting rentals owned by other people.


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A buyer overpays a seller

Sellers get scammed by thieves and criminals posing as buyers on Facebook Marketplace. When you list a product on Facebook Marketplace, a potential buyer shows interest and sends a larger amount than the asking price.

The scammer uses fake checks, stolen credit cards, or counterfeit funds to send money. The buyer admits the mistake and asks you to send the remaining amount as a refund. When the credit or debit card is reported as stolen to the authorities, the payment in your account is reversed, leaving you with nothing.

Buyers ask you to ship the product before payment

If you’re a seller, avoid buyers who ask you to ship the product before making a payment. Such scammers may convince you that they need to check the product and its working condition before sending the payment. They disappear after receiving the package at an abandoned place.

What to do if you are scammed on Facebook Marketplace

Facebook is aware of growing scams in Marketplace. The social giant created a Purchase Protection policy to help you get a refund. It covers the following scenarios:

  • You didn’t receive the item.
  • The product is damaged or significantly different from the description.
  • The seller didn’t follow Facebook’s refund policy.

You can also report such sellers to Facebook:

  1. Go to the product listing page on Facebook Marketplace.
  2. Hover the cursor over the seller’s profile picture.
  3. Select Report from the floating menu.
    a screenshot show the 'report' button on a Facebook marketplace sellers profile

  4. Choose a reason for reporting the seller.
    a screenshot show the 'report' options on Facebook marketplace

Facebook asks you to provide evidence of the scam. It isn’t foolproof, though. An independent report identified thousands of Marketplace listings that broke Facebook’s rules and failed to protect users from scammers.


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If it’s too good to be true, it isn’t true

Facebook isn’t the only problem. Any time money exchanges hands online, scammers will show up. Different platforms have different scams. Amazon tends to be better at verifying sellers and keeping payments secure and regulated. If you do more of your shopping on Amazon, learn how to spot fake reviews on Amazon. The best tip is to remain vigilant. If something seems too good to be true, it almost always is.

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