Facebook Marketplace scams: How to spot them and protect yourself

Tips & tricks
7 mins

Over a billion people buy and sell on Facebook Marketplace every month. Chances are you’ve picked up a bargain or two, or sold off your unwanted couch or car for some extra cash. However, honest hustlers and savvy savers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the platform.

Facebook Marketplace is a hive for scammers looking to trick you out of your hard-earned cash. Research points to one in six people getting scammed while using Facebook Marketplace. With so many scams out there, it’s crucial you know how to protect yourself.

That’s why we’ve created this guide for you on the most common Facebook Marketplace scams, how to spot them, as well as what to do if you fall victim to a scam. Let’s start with the types of scams you’ll run into.

Common Facebook Marketplace scams

Counterfeit goods

We all love a good discount. Snapping up a designer bag or PlayStation 5 on the cheap is a great feeling. It’s like you’ve beaten the system. However, be cautious if you see items for sale at suspiciously low prices. There’s a good chance the item’s fake.

How to avoid buying counterfeit goods

Always be wary if you see a price that’s too good to be true. If the cost is far below the recommended retail price or the cost of similar listings, take your bargain hunting elsewhere.

However, if you do think you’ve stumbled on a legitimate bargain, request photos and videos of the item before you buy. For items that are commonly counterfeited, look up the telltale signs online (the brand itself might offer tips), followed by a good inspection of the item in person before handing over your cash.

Paying and communicating using other apps

Scammers will try to persuade you to chat on a different service and pay outside of Facebook Marketplace’s payment system. Try to avoid this. While Facebook’s monitoring usually isn’t a good thing, it can help protect you from Marketplace scams thanks to their Purchase Protection policies.

How to avoid paying and communicating using other apps

Stop talking to a buyer (or seller) if they ask you to chat about and/or pay for an item on another app. This is often a ruse to trick you into paying using apps where it’s almost impossible for you to get your money back, such as wire transfer or Venmo.

Upfront payment/deposit scams

A scammer will tell you the item you’re interested in is very popular; so popular in fact that you’ll need to pay a deposit to secure it. However, once you send the money, the scammer will disappear along with your cash and any hope you had of receiving the item you paid for.

There are times when it would make sense for a buyer to offer to pay a deposit (such as if the buyer is desperate for an item or can’t meet up right away), but it’s more of a red flag for the seller to insist on one.

How to avoid upfront payment/deposit scams

Be on the lookout for sellers using urgency tactics to trick you into handing over money upfront. Back away if the seller is too pushy. It’s never a good idea to pay for items before receiving them, unless you are requiring the seller to mail it to you. Agree to meet sellers in person if possible before paying.

Overpayment scams

It’s not only sellers pulling scams on Facebook Marketplace. This scam comes from the buyer’s side. The buyer and seller agree on a price. Let’s say $100. The buyer then pays $150, more than the agreed upon amount. They’ll claim this was an accident, and ask the seller to repay them the extra $50, which they do.

A few days later, the seller gets a call from the bank. They tell the seller that the card used by the buyer could have been stolen. The seller doesn’t get the $100, plus loses the $50 overpayment they supposedly returned to the buyer.

How to avoid overpayment scams

Decline any overpayments you receive and ask the buyer to send the correct amount. If the buyer doesn’t agree to send you the correct payment, there’s a good chance they’re a scammer. End all talks with them and look for another buyer.

Fake rental scams

You can find some great rentals on Facebook Marketplace. However, you can also run into plenty of phony listings. These fake rentals try to lure you in with misleading pictures and too-good-to-be-true rent prices.

You might even be asked to pay additional fees for supposed background checks, charges that are illegal and are just an attempt to extort you. There are even cases where scammers will outright refuse to let you see the rental unless you sign a contract and pay the deposit.

How to avoid rental scams

Always view the property in person before handing over any money. It’s also good practice to confirm whether or not the property is vacant. Some scammers will put up listings for properties already owned or lived in by other people.

Mail scams

Some scammers will try to convince you that mailing the item to you is in your best interest. They’ll claim it’ll save you time and money on gas. However, since you won’t be able to see the item until it arrives, there’s a chance they’ll swap it out for something worthless.

How to avoid mail scams

It can be a pain to drive long distances to meet up with buyers. However, it’s best to make the journey, as buying an item without seeing it in person first is a recipe for trouble. Just be sure to meet the seller in a safe public place during the day.

If you have no other choice but to receive the item via the mail, request a tracking number and only pay via apps like PayPal or Facebook Checkout. This ensures you’re protected from fraud if the seller mails you a different item.

How to protect yourself from scams on Facebook Marketplace

Check the seller’s profile

Check the seller’s reviews and ratings. Lot’s of one-star reviews? Best to avoid them. Same goes for if the seller’s account is new. Fraudsters will often create fake accounts, so be wary if the seller’s account is one a few days or weeks old, or if the reviews all sound oddly similar.

Meet the seller/buyer in a well-lit public place

This reduces the risk of the seller swapping out the item for something else. Arrange your meet-up somewhere public with lots of foot traffic, preferably during the day. If you’re worried about meeting the buyer/seller by yourself, take a friend with you or let others know where you’re going and why.

Only pay after you’ve received the item

This one goes hand-in-hand with meeting up with the seller. It’s best to exchange the money and item at the same time. Since it’s not really possible to do this via mail, your best bet is to meet up in person.

Pay using Facebook Checkout or PayPal

These two payment methods protect your money in case you are scammed. Nefarious individuals will try to convince you to use external apps/methods like Venmo or wire transfer where there’s zero chance of your recovering lost funds.

Avoid sharing personal information

Never give out personal information like your bank account, credit card, social security number, date of birth, or phone number. Stick to Facebook and only share necessary information such as meet-up location and price.

Test electronics before paying for them

Make sure you test electronic items before handing over your cash. You can ask the seller to send you videos of the item to prove it’s working, though it’s best to test it yourself when meeting the seller in person.

What to do if you get scammed on Facebook Marketplace

First of all, don’t panic. Depending on your situation, you may be able to get your money back. Immediately alert your local law enforcement if you suspect you’ve been scammed. It’s also worth contacting the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center if you’re in the U.S. or your country’s equivalent.

You’ll also need to contact Facebook. You can request a refund if you bought your item via Facebook Marketplace, as it’ll be covered by the following Facebook Purchase Protection guidelines:

Facebook will refund your purchase if:

  • Your didn’t receive your item
  • The item is damaged or significantly different than described (this includes damage upon delivery, missing parts that weren’t stated by the seller, and being sent a completely different item)
  • The seller didn’t follow their stated refund policy
  • The purchase was unauthorized (for example, someone hacked into your Facebook account and made a purchase)

And don’t forget to report the scheming seller (or buyer) to Facebook. To report a seller:

  1. Tap the Marketplace icon
  2. Select the listing of the seller you want to report
  3. Tap the name of the seller
  4. Tap the three-dot icon and select Report Seller
  5. Tap Scam

To report a buyer:

  1. Open the item listing and select more options
  2. Tap report buyer

Have you ever been scammed on Facebook Marketplace? Tell us about it in the comments!

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