Facebook Marketplace Scams Are Way Up — Here’s How to Protect Yourself

A man holds a phone while logging into the Facebook app.
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Facebook Marketplace is a really useful way to buy and sell new and used goods in your area. That’s why there’s literally a billion users on Marketplace, according to Facebook.

It’s relatively easy and intuitive to use. It’s a handy place to find bargains or to unload stuff you don’t want anymore. (Here’s our guide on how to sell things there.)

Unfortunately, Facebook Marketplace’s wide open nature makes it a natural target for all kinds of scammers and fraudsters. In fact, a digital data company called BeenVerified has put together a report on digital scams, and it says that scams and fraud on Facebook Marketplace increased by nearly 185% in 2022 compared with 2021.

We don’t know about that, but we know there are scams on Marketplace. That’s because you can find scams wherever lots of money changes hands on the internet.

Who knows what 2023 will bring? It’ll certainly involve more scams, since those aren’t going anywhere.

Tips for Buyers and Sellers Alike

Buyers and sellers have fallen victim to fraudsters on Marketplace (and on similar sites like Craigslist), according to BeenVerified. Buyers lost money when they bought defective products, or when they sent cash or made a deposit but got nothing in return. Sellers lost their products to fake “buyers” using fake checks or someone else’s identity.

BeenVerified offers tips for navigating Facebook Marketplace safely:

  • Always try buying from a local seller, and examine the product before making payment.
  • Don’t make payments via platforms other than Facebook Checkout or PayPal.
  • Don’t fall for lucrative deals, because they’re often scams. It’s the age-old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t apply for giveaways.
  • If you meet your seller or buyer in public, make sure it’s in a well-lit public place.
  • For sellers, never ship an item until you get the payment.
  • Check the buyer or seller’s profile before finalizing the deal. Newly created accounts are a red flag.

If You Get Scammed on Facebook Marketplace

Depending on your situation, you may be able to get a refund. Facebook has a policy called Facebook Purchase Protection to protect buyers. Here’s Facebook’s guide on how to use the policy. It covers the following problems:

  • You didn’t receive your order.
  • The product was damaged or different than what the listing described.
  • The seller didn’t follow their stated refund policy.
  • The purchase was unauthorized, meaning that your account got hacked and/or someone else made a purchase using your account.

To report a troublesome seller on Facebook Marketplace, go to the “Marketplace” icon on the left side of your screen. Find the listing of the seller you want to report, and select their name. Click on the “More Options” button and choose “Report Seller.” Follow the instructions to fill out the report. If you’ve been scammed, you’ll be asked to provide evidence.

9 Common Facebook Marketplace Scams

The data crunchers at BeenVerified described nine common scams:

1. Paying Outside of Facebook

Facebook Marketplace has its own payment system, Facebook Checkout, but also lets you use PayPal for payments. Try to use only these payment methods or cash. If you pay outside of Facebook, it can’t track those payments and help you get your money refunded.

2. Defective Goods

Beware of too-good-to-be-true prices on luxury items like iPhones or PlayStations.

3. Mailing Instead of Item Pickup

If you’re a seller, the buyer asks you to mail the items before they pay, and you never get paid. If you’re a buyer, you get tricked into paying before you get the goods.

4. The Google Voice Scam

The scammer needs your phone number and a six-digit one-time verification code to get access to your Google Voice account, which they can use to create more accounts under your name and potentially commit cybercrimes in your name.

Never share verification codes with a buyer or seller.

5. The Overpayment Scam

The buyer pays more than the product’s final price and asks for a partial refund. However, maybe they paid with a fake check or a stolen card. You could lose the payment and your refund money.

6. The Fake Giveaway

They claim you won a prize. All you have to do is fill out this online form with some personal information…

7. The Insurance Scam

A buyer contacts the seller and asks them to ship your product. The buyers claim to pay for shipping and handling, but they need you to pay a small sum in advance as a refundable insurance fee. Once you pay that, you never hear from them again.

8. The Non-Delivery Scam

The seller never delivers your products after receiving your money.

9. The Bait-and-Switch

The seller posts a tempting deal, but when you contact them, they say that product is out of stock. They offer you an alternative that’s a worse deal.

What to Do if You Sent Money to a Scammer

Here’s The Penny Hoarder’s step-by-step guide for what to do if you’ve been scammed. And here’s the gist:

  • Lock down your bank accounts and credit cards.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus.
  • Change your passwords.
  • Report the crime to your local police department, state regulators and the FBI.

Like we said, Facebook Marketplace is a really useful way to buy and sell new and used goods in your area. We’ve used it many times.

Just watch out for yourself, that’s all.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.