Facebook Marketplace Scams: How to Identify and Avoid Them

Facebook Marketplace is rapidly becoming the epicenter of business transactions. In fact, data shows that over 1.2 billion people, monthly, buy something on Facebook. 

Unfortunately, we at Confirm acknowledge that there are malicious people who take advantage of the platform. You can easily fall prey to scams when you don’t know who exactly you’re dealing with.

As such, it is not enough to be wary of such scams to protect yourself—you should take deliberate steps to verify the legitimacy of your transactions. Here’s a guide that can help you with that.

Common Facebook Marketplace Scams

Sadly, Facebook is home to many scams. This is why it is important to implement safeguards when you are trying to transact with a stranger online, no matter what end you’re at. 

Below are some of the most common types of scams you might encounter in Facebook Marketplace.

Non-delivery of items after payment

Non-delivery of items after payment is one of the most common Facebook Marketplace scams that can happen to a customer. The scammer will urge you to pay for the item first, and only upon receipt of the remittance will they ship the merchandise. 

Some vendors will even urge you to give the total amount by saying it is “the last item” and is about to be sold out. Another tactic is when they tell you another customer is ready to buy the said product. Afterward, they’ll block you when you ask for delivery updates. 

This also happens pretty often during in-person meetups, where the vendor often requests a deposit before the actual meeting. Fortunately, the risk of scams in such situations is lower because it’s assumed that the vendor already has the item in hand. 

Still, to avoid said risk altogether, verify the identity of the person you are transacting with before you meet them. Ask for an ID so you can report them on the off chance you get scammed. Buyers can also insist on paying the full amount during the meetup, adding an extra layer of security to the transaction.

Delivery of items without prior payment

On the flip side, delivery of products without prior payment is a common Facebook Marketplace scam that can happen to any merchant. The customer will push you to deliver the merchandise before they pay for it. Once the merchandise is shipped and received by the customer, they block you.

We found that overeager vendors are usually the ones to fall prey to this. Sellers who are keen to get rid of their decluttered or used products can also become primary targets. That’s why it’s so important to verify the identities of the people you deal with online.

Scammer prices

When items are listed at very low prices, they tend to catch your attention and make you want to buy them right away. These Marketplace scammers target people who love getting good deals. They often pick expensive things like gadgets, jewelry, designer bags, and shoes to trick buyers.

If you see a listed price that’s much lower than the usual cost, like 30% to 50% off, it’s a huge warning. Think about it: what profits are there to be gained from that? This can be a warning sign that the products can be counterfeit items. It is also possible that such products do not exist and they simply made a fake listing.

Faulty items

There are also people who sell items that are faulty on Facebook Marketplace. Their modus operandi is to send the customer an image or video proof that the products are working perfectly. When, in fact, the merchant is using another item for demonstration purposes. The merchandise you will receive is actually defective.

This happens often, especially with gadgets. People even had experiences where they were sent “working” Airpods only to receive defunct ones.

When you ask for a refund, the scammer will either ignore you or tell you the merchandise was working when it was shipped. They will claim it is no longer their problem if it gets damaged while shipping. 

Vendors who sell faulty products usually use generic pictures of the products in their listings. These pictures are just grabbed from the official site of a certain company. Also, they only include one or two pictures in the post. Legitimate vendors take the time to take a picture of the actual product they have on hand. 

“Overpayment” refunds

There are Facebook Marketplace scams where the customer “accidentally” overpays. The merchant is asked to refund the excess amount. In this case, the scammer sends an image as proof of remittance.

This is usually a screenshot of payment confirmation from third-party applications. It can also be a screenshot of an email from the bank. The scammer will then contact the merchant and tell them they overpaid and must refund the excess amount. 

Overpayment refund scams are easy to spot because there are no honest buyers who will overpay for a product. Still, vendors fall prey to this scam because of the initial promise of false remittance. To avoid this scam completely, verify the buyer’s identity by asking for a valid ID. You can also create an account on Confirm and have our software verify the identities for you.

Fake giveaways 

Fake giveaways are some of the most dangerous scams in Facebook Marketplace. Sellers usually gain the trust of the buyers before they do this. They can send you a link to a supposed giveaway they are currently running. And that by joining the giveaway, you can get a discount on your next purchase.

Some scammers can also show you the “prizes” you can win when you join the raffle. They will even sometimes tell you that you will get a free token when you join the giveaway.

When you click on the link, you will be sent a form where you fill out all your personal information. The form is made to look legitimate and may even have some note on it that says your information is kept confidential when it’s not.

However, this is a phishing scam. They use the information you receive to commit credit card fraud or even identity theft. This scam is easily spotted when there are words like “giveaway,” “free gift,” or “join the raffle” on the post. 

If they’re set on giving away freebies, they usually send them by default with the item you’ve purchased.

Bait and switch scams

This Marketplace scam is where the merchant baits you into buying a certain item they have… when it’s “out of stock.” They will then suggest you switch to a similar item, which is usually more expensive than the previous one.

As you might already feel compelled to complete the transaction, you might agree and go for another item. Others even ship out random products, which are neither the bait nor the promised switch product.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to spot this scam based on the listing alone. In fact, if the item you want is not available, it’s best not to push through with the transaction at all. 

But if it’s something you really need, have a thorough conversation with the seller first. Ask for photos of the switch item before pushing through with the transaction. Usually, scammers won’t have photos of said item anyway. 

Fake rentals

Rental scams are rampant in Facebook Marketplace because they are easy to pull off. This type of scam involves fake listings for properties, apartments, car rentals, power tools, or boats. The scammer does not actually have these listings. Instead, they grab photos from other people who have those listings. 

They even go as far as using other people’s promotional material to make their posts look legitimate. Some even have fake testimonials about their listings. 

Once you have decided on a listing, the scammer will send you a fake application or lease agreement. They’ll ask for all your personal info, including your credit card details and social security number—which are already huge red flags. However, if you still push through with it, things can get worse. 

You will be asked to give a deposit; a fake contract will even be sent to add credibility. Once your deposit is paid, they’ll cut off all contact and disappear from Facebook Marketplace.

You can spot this scam by searching for listings in the same area. See if there are multiple listings of the same property. You can also do a reverse image search to see if their image is an original one. 

Most importantly, check if you’re transacting with a legitimate renter. Verify their identity. If they’re not part of an agency, the least you can ask for is a valid ID. The purchase is big enough for this kind of caution to be justified.

Gift card payment scams

The beauty of Facebook Marketplace is that it can also be a platform for bartering. Therefore, it’s normal to do exchanges that do not necessarily include money. The gift card payment scam is when vendors ask customers to pay using gift cards ONLY.

They do this because gift card payments cannot be tracked. Once the value of the gift card is used, your credit card company or bank cannot refund it.

You can determine it as a scam if there are words like “gift cards only” in the description or title of the listing. Cash should always be an option if they’re a legitimate seller.

Advance payment scams

This is another scam that is hard to identify because the method is commonly practiced on Facebook Marketplace. Advance payment is where the merchant asks for a reservation fee or a deposit before they ship the item. 

This is done to protect the merchant in case the customer is a scammer. Serious customers will take the risk of ensuring the seller really has the intention to buy the item. 

However, this practice is exploited by scammers. There are vendors who will ask for advance settlement but will not ship the item and block the customer. They will even use fake identities, which will make it hard for your bank to track the scammer. 

Verify the identity of the vendor you’re transacting with, especially if it’s a big purchase (like electronics and designer items). Confirm allows users to create digital IDs and allow people to know who they’re dealing with in real life. By sharing personal information like legal names and photos, our platform adds an extra layer of confidence through government-verified identities.

Another hint that the transaction is an advanced settlement scam is when the seller asks for a 50% deposit. Remember: anything larger than 15% of the price is considered too risky!

Lost package claims

Facebook Marketplace customers can scam vendors by claiming they never received the item when, in fact, the seller has shipped it. They do this to pressure the seller into either issuing a refund or, worse, shipping a replacement item to the buyer.

Some scammers even show the vendors they filed a complaint with the courier. They can also send you pictures of the “reply” from the courier showing the package was “lost” during shipping. These messages can easily be faked with a second phone.

The only way to avoid this scam is to handle the logistics yourself. As the vendor, be the one who books the courier and sends the item yourself. Then, provide your buyers with a tracking number to allow them to follow its shipment. 

OTP scams

It is easy to grab personal info from your Facebook profile. They just need to know your phone number and an OTP. 

Since phone numbers are sometimes necessary for couriers, some scammers will tell you a code will be sent to the number you’ve provided to “verify” your identity. In reality, that code is for two-factor authentication on an account. Once they have it, they can redirect your authentications to their accounts, giving them access to all your accounts.

This scam extends to payments, too. Even if you have not issued a remittance, the seller can ask for a code. They can use a guise like the code is needed for them to clear your future payments. 

Remember, legitimate sellers will never ask for verification codes. You do not need those to transact in Facebook Marketplace.

How to Avoid Being Scammed in Facebook Marketplace

Aside from the tips we’ve mentioned above, there are also other proactive ways you can keep yourself from being scammed on Facebook Marketplace. Here are some essential tips that can help you avoid potential scams and safeguard your transactions:

Verify the identity of the buyer or seller on Facebook Marketplace

If you want to detect Facebook Marketplace scams, it is never enough to just check their name and profile picture. You need to verify if the person you are talking to is the same person shown on their Marketplace profile.

Verifying the identity of the buyer or seller promotes accountability when problems arise. In case the item is defective or it was not paid for, you have enough information to report the person to the authorities. In fact, even though you get blocked, you still have a chance for remuneration in real life. You can verify their identity by using Confirm. 

Confirm allows its users to create government-verified digital identities (called a ConfirmID) they can share on Facebook Marketplace. If you’re the one initiating the transaction, you can share an invite with the buyer or seller, prompting them to create a ConfirmID as well. This way, you can verify each other’s identity and build trust. 

If the seller or buyer is wary about sharing their real identity, our platform allows you to do so securely while maintaining privacy. We use Persona to verify the identity of our users, a program that uses bank-grade security and is certified for SOC 2 Type II, a leading global protection framework. 

Plenty of legitimate vendors in Facebook Marketplace are aware of the widespread scams that tend to affect their business. Therefore, trustworthy sellers are more open to identity verification if it means you feel safer conducting business with them. 

Do not pay or deliver the item in advance

We discussed earlier that it is a common practice in Facebook Marketplace for the customer to pay a deposit. This is to assure the seller that the buyer will go through with the transaction.

If this is the situation proposed by the seller, make sure you verify their identity first before sending the deposit. Be firm about the deposit amount; it should never be 30% to 50% of the total amount.

After you’ve paid the deposit, send them proof of your payment. Ask them to keep you in the loop once the money shows up in their account. Once the amount is credited, follow up on the shipping of the item. Don’t hesitate to request pictures and videos of the item being packed.

If you’re the one selling, never send out an item until it’s partially paid for. Asking for full payment upfront might make some buyers uneasy, so consider asking for a 10% to 20% deposit. Make sure also to verify their identity so you can report them if they don’t follow through with the rest of the payment.

Never provide sensitive information on Facebook Marketplace

Verifying each other’s identity is important, but it has its limits. For business transactions, confirming someone’s legal name and payment method is usually enough. Do not share your passwords, credit card information, social security numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. This information can be used for other fraudulent activity and identity theft. 

When it comes to sharing your delivery details, make sure you do so after verifying the identity of the seller.

Also, never share personal information that may compromise your email security questions, like the street you grew up on or the name of your first pet. Scammers are smooth talkers who make you feel comfortable enough to overshare information. 

Buyers and vendors are not your friends. Be friendly but cautious!

Do not get pressured into a transaction

If the buyer or seller is being overly insistent, back out. Avoid dealing with someone who seems suspicious, even if you feel like you cannot find another seller with similar merchandise.

The same goes for the seller. If the buyer is rushing you to ship out the item, avoid dealing with someone who seems suspicious and deny the sale.

Never rush your transactions. Gather as much info as possible about the buyer or seller, and do not hesitate to ask questions about the item that is being sold. You can also ask for pictures or videos to confirm its actual condition.

If you sense your questions and requests aren’t a priority, consider finding another buyer or vendor. Just because you or they asked about an item doesn’t mean you’re committed to the transaction. Keep your options open!

Check reviews of the seller or the buyer

You could be transacting with real people, but awful ones. That’s why it’s so important to check the reviews on their Facebook Marketplace profile. If you can, only transact with people who have a high star rating. If they do not have enough ratings to prove their trustworthiness, stay vigilant until the end of your transaction.

However, do keep in mind that reviews and ratings can be faked. Be discerning in reading the reviews to know if they are actually left by people who bought from the seller. If the reviews seem too similar, there’s a chance they might be fake.

Check the profiles of the people who left a review. Make sure the reviews do not come from dummy accounts.

For the seller, you can also see buyer ratings in their Marketplace profile. For example, if there are reviews about how remittance was handled, you can use this information to better transact with the buyer. You will know if they are willing to send a deposit or if they are opposed to it.

You can make an educated conclusion based on the experience of other sellers and buyers you’ve already pushed through with their transactions. From there, gauge the trustworthiness of the person you are talking to. 

Ask for a payment or delivery receipt

Finally, always request a remittance receipt. This can be anything from a payment or delivery receipt to an invoice during the meetup. 

In fact, for online sellers, remember to ship out items only if the amount has been credited to your account. Even if the buyer provides proof of remittance, wait for confirmation on your end before committing to ship the item.

Then, as an online buyer, ask for a delivery receipt. Sellers also often share a tracking link that displays real-time delivery updates. Make sure the URL is legitimate and actually leads to the courier’s website before you click on it.

However, we at Confirm understand how common Facebook phishing scams are with this type of modus. This is why it is more secure to verify each other’s identities with Confirm and meet with them face to face. Make sure the link is to goconfirm.com and not another suspicious-looking URL.

Anyway, the only people you chat with on Facebook Marketplace are those who are located near you. The platform is coded like this.

If you accidentally open a link that opens to another site, don’t linger and immediately exit the window. 

Be A Responsible Facebook Marketplace User

Facebook Marketplace is convenient, but let’s be honest—scammers are always afoot. Always be vigilant with your transactions. If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. 

We encourage all our users to be responsible buyers. In fact, build trust by verifying each other’s legal identities using Confirm. Confirm lets you and the person you’re transacting with create government-verified digital IDs you can share over a secured platform. Plus, our decentralized security measures ensure that you alone have full control over the information you share. 

Finally, trust your instincts. It’s okay to immediately terminate the conversation if you feel something is off. Then, if things push through, maintain communication until the end of your transaction.