Facebook Marketplace is a scammer’s paradise because it’s easy to bypass merchant and buyer verification using fake accounts. Many scammers pretend to be real sellers to fraudulent buyers and vice versa. It’s moth to flame.
We don’t specifically choose Facebook Marketplace – any third-party marketplace like Kogan and GumTree can suffer from the same issues. According to ThinkMoneyUK,
One in six respondents have been scammed on Facebook Marketplace. The most common bait was a recommendation from a Facebook friend. Scams will inevitably be much more frequent on this platform than on sites like eBay and Amazon which guarantee the integrity of the sale.
Why? Facebook Marketplace suffers from social media disease – a false sense of security because you follow links that are supposedly recommended by friends or endorsed by others. Unlike eBay or Amazon, Facebook Marketplace buyers have a much more direct interaction and conversation with sellers.
Let’s look at the first steps to identify a Facebook Marketplace scam
- Offer oddly low prices for items that sell for a lot more. Tip: If the discount is much higher than 20-30%, something is wrong.
- Launder stolen goods that you could lose if caught.
- Moves you away from Facebook Messenger to other chat services to maintain anonymity
- Will never allow personal inspection (even if Facebook’s location service shows the goods are allegedly in the same city)
- Bad spelling and grammar litter the site
- Require your phone number, address, Google Gmail address and other credentials, but will not reciprocate (anonymity)
- Requires gift card or bitcoin payment
- Issues an invoice with a fake ABN (if a business seller)
- Never send the goods
- Willing to buy at the listed price or even pay more to get it. Or overpay, claiming they put the decimal point $ in the wrong place, and you have to pay it back.
- Sends you the shipping label (connote) to hide the delivery address
- Use a fake credit card or fake bank deposit (easily reversible). Insist on PayPal.
- No profile picture.
- Cases of bullying and theft if they meet you in person. Never meet in a private home and never meet alone.
A few specific scams to watch out for
Several fake Facebook Marketplace sellers list the same item but all but one are sold out. It creates a sense of urgency – buy, or you’ll miss out on the deal of a lifetime.
You put it in the cart, provide payment and shipping details but do not receive an email confirmation of the transaction.
Or you get an excuse that you missed the last one, and the seller will get you another one soon, but you have to leave a small deposit. Or they have something better at a bit more price (bait and switch). Goods never arrive, but your credit card, gift card or peer-to-peer payment shows payment.
Another trick is that by buying from the seller, you are automatically entered into a contest or lottery. They send you a web link that downloads malware to your computer or smartphone. Facebook does not check outbound links, so users can include any link in a promotional post. Don’t.
Things to avoid
Facebook Marketplace is littered with
- Counterfeit luxury items – cheap imitations. Shoes, handbags, cosmetics, prescription drugs – any higher priced, low volume product. Chances are it’s a fake!
- Stolen items
- Second factory sold as new
- Short-term vacation rentals, unused timeshares, or “unable to use hotel booking” that the seller does not own or exist.
- Scalped show tickets that don’t exist.
- Pets in need of a good home
- Used or stolen cars
Is there an appeal?
In theory there is, but in practice it’s caveat emptor. Facebook has a Purchase Protection Policy, but only for items that comply with its policies. Scammers know how to circumvent policies by using third-party payment systems such as Zelle, CashApp, Venmo, etc., not the Facebook Checkout payment system. The claim limit is US$2,000.
And you can report vendors, but it’s a game of molestation because the same vendor reappears under a different fake name.
CyberShack Point of View – Scamming is a well-honed art. What chance do you have against a professional scammer?
Just as you may have been on top of your game in your professional life, these scammers are on top of their game. They are organized, do this for a living and know all the flaws.
All we can say is be careful online.
A current Australian example
Australian reader Alan (an affluent Gen X lawyer) asked us to research this. He purchased what was supposed to be the genuine Star Trek TNG in a collectible alloy case, of which only 4000 individually numbered cases were made. These cost around $1,000 to $4,000 used and up to $10,000 in mint condition.
Being a Facebook enthusiast and tragic Hopeless Trekie, he followed a link from a like-minded Facebook friend to the merchant. He eagerly split the US$1,000 plus $100 for mail and handling. Seller only accepted Zelle payments (but both buyer and seller must use US bank accounts). Long story short, the transaction was Bitcoin. The seller then used all the tools at his disposal.
- Seller: Sorry, it just sold. I think I can find one more – give me a few days.
- Seller: I can get a new, unused box for $4,000, but I need to know now.
- Buyer: Since he was worth half of what he was worth, he should have sounded the alarm. “OK, no more bitcoins transferred”.
- Salesperson: Hey, can you rate me because I did a good job for you? Here is a link. (He downloads malware and steals his contact information. Alan’s email address sends tons of spoofed spam and sends Facebook friend recommendations to other scam marketplaces).
CyberShack Consumer Advice