We’ve often talked about the different kinds of scam that are common online these days, and we’ve shared general tips for spotting and avoiding them.
However, as Facebook Marketplace continues to grow, threatening to overtake long-established sites like eBay, we’ve decided to dedicate some time to the specific scams that you might come across in this environment. Since Facebook Marketplace is relatively unregulated – anyone can post or pose as a buyer with very few checks – there is a lot to look out for.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of these types of scam is growing alongside the platform. Although these kinds of neighbour-to-neighbour selling platforms are great for a bargain, you should make sure you have your wits about you.
One of the simplest scams comes from sellers listing items that they don’t actually have available for sale. Typically they will offer to ship the item to you (rather than meeting up in person for an exchange), after you send the money. There’s not much that you can do to get refunded, so to avoid this you should really stick to using Facebook for local transactions, where you pick something up from a neighbour.
Counterfeit goods such as luxury fashion or tech items are usually sold for a significant discount, so if you’re looking at a deal that seems too good to be true then that’s your first sign something is wrong. Scammers may list the item as being overstock or factory seconds, but this is usually a lie. People who seem to be selling something in large quantities for under the market rate may well be selling fake goods.
Look out for generic pictures that seem to be lifted from shop websites rather than taken by the seller. Make sure you pick up the item in person and check it before completing the transaction. There are lots of good guides online that will run through how to spot a fake for different items you might buy, such as branded trainers.
Unfortunately, some people do pose on Facebook Marketplace to lure people into dangerous situations. This can happen to both buyers and seller, as the criminals may be looking to rob cash or the items that you’ve listed. Either way, the trick to staying safe is arranging to meet in a public place and having somebody with you.
A particularly nasty scam that we’ve heard about recently is the fake overpayment. This happens when somebody offers to buy your listing, and suggests that they’ll pay via PayPal. You’ll receive an email that makes it seem as though they’ve sent you significantly more money than you agreed. Then one of two things might happen: they’ll either claim that they made a mistake and ask you to send them the money back, or they’ll ask you to use the extra money to pay a courier service, using details that they provide.
Either way, it’s a scam. The money that you think they’ve sent you doesn’t really exist and will never clear in your PayPal account. This will leave you significantly out of pocket.
These scams shouldn’t necessarily put you off using Facebook Marketplace, however they do show the importance of using it responsibly. It’s designed to help people buy and sell their unneeded items with people who live nearby – the internet version of a car boot sale. When you try and use it for bigger or more complex transactions, things can start to go wrong. Our golden rule is to not use it for large purchases where you would like some kind of financial protection, and to always stay safe when arranging meetings.