Home Advice & How-ToSafety How to Avoid Facebook Marketplace Scams
Home Advice & How-ToSafety How to Avoid Facebook Marketplace Scams

How to Avoid Facebook Marketplace Scams

by Pamela Fay

Facebook Marketplace is a popular and easy way to buy and sell lots of great stuff in the community.  All you need is a profile and something to offer.  Unfortunately, the features that make the platform easy to use also make it a boon for scammers.

Facebook may seem like a familiar, safe place.  It can be, when you’re dealing with people you know.  You can’t, however, recognize a scammer by looking at the nice picture in their profile.  So how can you avoid being a victim?  We’ve put together a list of some of the most popular scams you should be aware of.  Keep reading for tips that will help you navigate Facebook Marketplace with confidence and maybe even find some genuine good deals.

How Scams Work on Facebook Marketplace

Counterfeit Goods

If you are an experienced collector with an eye for quality merchandise, you might be able to tell the difference between what is real and what is not.  Counterfeiters, however, are becoming more and more stealthy.  The genuineness of the goods they offer, including watches, cell phones, fashion items, cosmetics and more, are difficult, if not impossible, to ensure.   Companies such as Nike and Birkenstock have recently abandoned Amazon because even the behemoth online retailer is unable to prevent the proliferation of fake products on their platforms.  If you decide to purchase something you believe could be inauthentic, visit the company’s website.  There may be information there to help you differentiate. 

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Damaged Goods 

You should only pay after you have had a chance to inspect the product.  But, you can’t always see damage through a visual inspection.  Merchandise procured from foreign countries may follow different regulations, making them unsuitable for children, the environment, health and safety, or the intended use.  If the seller is an honest broker, they will address your concerns and find a resolution. 

If not, you have two options.  You can:

  • Report the seller to Facebook Marketplace.
  • Notify your local police, if you believe a crime was committed.

Unfortunately, sellers can disappear without a trace.  Your best defense is to ensure that you don’t accept damaged goods in the first place.  Inspect anything you buy in person and with great care, if possible.

Goods Never Received 

If you agree to accept delivery through the mail, you run the risk of never receiving the item.  When you pay by credit card, your credit card company may reimburse you for items that never arrived.  As with damaged goods, you can also report the seller to Facebook Marketplace and to your local police.

Robbed at the Pick-up Site

Never agree to meet the seller in an unsafe place.  This includes far corners of parking lots and other vacant spaces.  Of course, it’s not always possible to avoid entering the seller’s place of residence.  If the merchandise is too heavy to carry outside, bring along a few strong people to carry the goods and keep you safe.  In any case, it’s best to never go alone. 

Buying Property Not Actually for Sale

Imagine that you show up to inspect a lawn furniture set.  You like what you see, pay for it in cash, and agree to return later with a truck.  But when you come to collect your new purchase at the same place, the actual owner comes to the door and has no idea that the furniture has been sold by a scam artist.  Boats, garages, playhouses and similar items, for example, that may be located outside, can be sold by anyone who has access to the property.  And you may not be the only person who believes they legitimately purchased the furniture. 

Best Practice for Facebook Marketplace Purchases

You can protect yourself with a few steps.  Remember that Facebook Marketplace is intended for local transactions.  This means that, as a matter of best practice, you should: 

  1. Avoid purchasing goods through the mail.
  2. Meet the seller in a public place.
  3. Inspect your goods thoroughly.
  4. Collect your goods.
  5. Pay a fair price to the seller in cash.
  6. Take your goods home unassisted by the seller.

You’ll notice that not one of these steps includes picking up a package at the post office, paying in advance online, or going down a dark alley.   You are dealing with a stranger and there is no protection for you or for your payment.  Be suspicious of anyone who asks you to do anything that feels unsafe or makes an offer that seems unlikely.  If $50 for an authentic Louis Vuitton bag seems too good to be true, trust your instincts. 

Discover three more ways to protect yourself on Facebook Marketplace here!

How to Avoid a Scam with Spokeo

In addition to following the best practices outlined above, carefully investigate the seller before you buy.  Make sure the Facebook profile looks legitimate.  You should see a complete profile with pictures and friends.  Make sure the profile has been around for at least a few months. 

For even greater security, check out the seller on Spokeo. Using Spokeo’s easy-to-use people search engine, you can see whether the seller has other social media aliases and even figure out if they are a stable part of the online community.  If you’re using other popular buying/selling apps, you can also check out our guides to staying safe on OfferUp and Craigslist.

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