March 14, 2023

min read

Facebook Marketplace Scams: How to Identify and Avoid Them

Lookout Life
Lookout Life
Mobile Security: Privacy & Identity Protection

The growth of Facebook Marketplace 

Facebook Marketplace has quickly become a go-to place to sell or buy used items in local communities. The convenience for buyers and sellers to purchase goods and communicate easily within the Facebook app has enabled Facebook Marketplace adoption to soar. 

As Facebook Marketplace has grown in popularity, Facebook Marketplace scams are also rising. To help keep your personal and financial information safe online, it’s important to know — whether you’re buying or selling — the suspicious signs to look out for on Facebook Marketplace and how to protect yourself against scams.

How to identify a Facebook Marketplace scam

While most Marketplace users are trusted buyers and sellers, bad actors can also take advantage of the site to trick people into falling for scams. Here are a few key signs you can watch out for that could indicate you are  communicating with a scammer:

  • Too good to be true: When a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. Shoppers should be wary of any listing offering an extremely low price for a valuable item. Likewise, sellers should watch out for potential buyers who offer more than the asking price. 
  • Manufactured urgency: If you receive immediate messages from a buyer or seller urging you to act ASAP, exercise caution before proceeding. Scammers often use the illusion of urgency to trick buyers or sellers into going forward with less-than-legitimate deals. 
  • Odd payment requests: Scammers often make unusual and very specific payment requests, without flexibility. For example, Facebook recommends that buyers avoid making sales or transactions that require you to pay with gift cards. You also should verify the quality and condition of the item you are buying before exchanging money or personal information of any kind. 
  • Suspicious photos:If there is only one photo of an item from the site where it was originally purchased and no current photos of the item in its actual condition, be wary that the item may not exist, or may not exist in the quality promised.

6 common Facebook marketplace scams — what to look out for

  1. Counterfeit items: One common Facebook Marketplace scam involves listing fake or damaged items for sale. The seller waits until you’ve sent a payment, and the item ends up being a broken or counterfeit item. It’s a good idea to always review the seller's profile closely and read customer reviews before purchasing an item on Facebook Marketplace, and obtain as much information about the product as possible before buying (for instance, ask the seller to send a video of the product) in order to ensure it is legitimate.
  2. Fake listings: Many times, scammers demand upfront payment only to back out of the deal or disappear, and you never get the purchased item. That’s why it’s essential to confirm the item’s authenticity prior to sending payment of any kind.
  3. Real estate fraud: Sometimes, deceptive users upload photos of a beautiful rental home at a suspiciously cheap price. Once you’ve signed what you believe to be a legitimate lease, or even just sent a down payment to “secure your deposit,” you may arrive and discover that someone is already living there. Scammers can list photos of houses or apartments that they do not own and “sell” or “rent” them sight unseen to unsuspecting buyers. Facebook advises that people not send deposits for high value items (including apartment rentals) without confirming that they’re real first. When possible, try to confirm the property in person before sending payments.
  4. Overpayment: If a buyer ever tries to give you extra money, they are most likely not legitimate. Fraudulent users often send more money than you’ve asked for, only to demand a refund for the “overpayment.” For instance, you might be selling a chair for $50 but receive a check for $200 from the buyer. When you send them back $150 to correct the “mistake,” they take the money and run. And when you try to deposit the check, it bounces, leaving you with no payment at all. If a buyer sends an overpayment, the seller can decline the funds and ask the buyer to send another payment with the correct balance.
  5. Suspicious profiles: Thoroughly read the  buyer’s profile before going through with a deal. You should be able to view their ratings and reviews, other listings, and Marketplace activity. If the user is not local to the area or has an empty profile, that may be a warning sign that they are not who they say they are.
  6. Phishing for personal information: Stay on guard against any requests for information the buyer or seller doesn’t need — they may ask for your social security number, birthday, or additional personal information. Phishing scams on Facebook Marketplace exist to steal your personal data and information. The scammer may ask you for a code or a phone number to complete a two-factor verification code on an unsecured messaging system. This code could abe linked to another app that allows them to steal your mobile number and account information, giving them full access to other accounts they may want to hack.

How to report a scam

To report a fraudulent seller to Facebook, go to Marketplace and click on the item listing. Select the seller’s name from the listing page and click “Report.” This will allow you to report the seller based on the type of scam they’ve pulled or tried to pull.

To report a fraudulent buyer, click on the messages between you and the would-be buyer. There should be a “Report Buyer” option available to select. Follow the guided process to alert Facebook to the scam buyer and make sure others do not fall victim to their scam.

If you are a victim of a scam you can also notify the payment provider you  used (for example, your credit card company or bank) to alert them of the scam and request a refund via their fraud protection. 

What you can do to avoid Facebook Marketplace scams

The best way to avoid issues is to stay alert and aware of common Facebook Marketplace scams. Know what red flags to look out for and always follow best practices for safe selling and buying. If you stick with secure payment methods, verify authenticity, and turn down suspicious offers or requests, you are much more likely to stay safe. 

Learn more and stay safe with Lookout

For advanced protection against emerging scams and identity theft, Lookout also offers comprehensive protection that helps safeguard your online privacy, identity and financial information from risks and fraud, including 24/7 live expert assistance and up to $1 million of identity theft protection coverage.

Learn more about Lookout Life.


How do you know if it’s a Facebook Marketplace scam?

Make sure to check for red flags of common Facebook Marketplace scams before going through with a deal. Check for new or suspicious profiles, odd payment requests, or other dangerous signs. When in doubt, avoid moving forward with the sale.

How common is it to get scammed on Facebook Marketplace?

Unfortunately, while most Facebook Marketplace users are legitimate, there are scammers who may try to take advantage of you. Make sure to follow safety guidelines and avoid red flags to stay away from scams.

What should I do If I get scammed on Facebook Marketplace?

If you run into a fraudulent buyer or seller, report them immediately. Facebook makes it easy to report Marketplace scams. Follow the listed instructions to create a report as soon as possible.

Is Facebook Marketplace safe?

If you follow the above guidelines, Facebook Marketplace can generally be a safe and affordable way to buy and sell used items in your community. However, you should avoid giving out personal information that is unnecessary to the transaction, or paying with payment methods that are less secure, like gift cards. By keeping all communication in Facebook messenger, you can also protect against phone-related text message or call scams, including phishing attacks.

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