Facebook Marketplace is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to buy, sell and trade online. But like any internet classified ad site, there can come a steep price if you’re not careful. Here are 3 tips for buying stuff safely on Facebook.
Facebook Marketplace: Better than Craigslist?
Of the 7.6 billion people on the planet, over 2 billion of them are on Facebook. That’s nearly 30% of the world’s population sharing pictures of their lunch, playing Candy Crush and getting enraged by their cousin’s political beliefs.
And now, with Facebook Marketplace, you can add “buying motorcycles and selling iPhones” to the list.
Marketplace works much the same way as classified ad boards like Craigslist, and some even prefer it citing its more phone-friendly interface and ease-of-use.
But just like any site that involves exchanging money with strangers, there are a few things you should always do before you take the plunge.
1. Research the Item
This may seem obvious, but really make sure you understand what you are buying. Whether it’s a car or a stereo system, take the time to research the item so you know what it’s worth, how it works and what it should look like.
While you can certainly find fantastic deals on a variety of things using Marketplace, if you let your guard down you could be disappointed by finding out you overpaid or they oversold (i.e. didn’t tell you something was busted or missing a key part).
If it’s a big ticket item, ask to for pictures to gauge quality and don’t be afraid to demand seeing it in person before committing to buy: it’s your right as a consumer to make sure the darn thing is worth buying.
2. Research the Seller
One possibly advantage Facebook Marketplace has over Craigslist is the relative lack of anonymity.
Craigslist, while generally safe, makes it difficult for the buyer to know exactly who they’re dealing with before meeting up. With Marketplace, however, each posting has a link to the seller’s Facebook profile which will allow you to see exactly who you’ll be meeting.
Of course, it’s not difficult to fake a profile, but such cases are likely exceedingly rare. That said, be on the look out for profiles with no pictures or information. Only deal with sellers in your general area.
If you’re still suspicious of a certain profile, be sure to search their name or phone number using a people search engine, which can give you background information including arrest records, aliases and location.
3. Deal Locally and Meet Face-to-Face
As stated above, you can avoid almost all scams on Facebook Marketplace by dealing locally and meeting face-to-face.
Scammers generally target people willing to send money or work through the mail. Don’t make yourself a target. Set up a meeting in a public, well-lit place and feel free to bring along a friend. Make sure the item is as described and only exchange cash. Any seller that asks payment via a MoneyGram or wire beforehand and is unwilling to meet in person is potentially a fraudster.
Feel free to refer to Facebook’s own safety tips for doing business online. Rest assured that Marketplace, like Craigslist, is overwhelmingly safe and incidents of fraud, theft or assault are exceedingly rare. Most sellers are just normal people trying to get rid of some stuff. Put in a little time up front to research the item and seller and you’ll be just fine.