Six Signs You're Getting Scammed on Facebook Marketplace

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Six Signs It's a Facebook Marketplace ScamSoumi Sarkar

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It doesn't matter if you're a seasoned secondhand shopper or just starting out, finding (and buying) home decor on Facebook Marketplace can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, if you see an item listed, arrange to go pick it up, and get your hands on a like-new piece for a fair, affordable price, it can feel like finding a design diamond in the rough. (After all, one person's distressed side table is another person's next DIY project.) That being said, Facebook Marketplace scams are becoming increasingly commonplace. Don't believe us? One report found that scams on both the buying and selling side increased by 78 percent toward the end of 2023.

While anyone can succumb to a Facebook Marketplace scam—yes, even the most strategic, savviest shoppers—there are a few telltale signs that a listing isn't everything it's cracked up to be. To help you shop with confidence, and beat scammers at their own game, we're sharing a few red flags you should out for the next time your peruse the social media platform.

There's Not Enough Info on a Seller's Profile

Scrolling through Facebook Marketplace and found something you love? According to Jennifer Beck—founder of Saved By Design, a furniture refinishing and restoration business where she give old home items a second life—your next step should be to look at the seller's profile. That's what she does when she spies a potential gem on Facebook Marketplace. "The profile will show me ratings, other listings and how long they've been on Marketplace," she explains. "If a seller has multiple listings of the same piece, no profile picture, or they're a new account without ratings, those are immediate red flags."

It's important to remember that a person's seller page is linked to their personal Facebook profile, which should theoretically showcase their lives over many years. If their seller's page and profile have no information, it might be a sign that it's a fake account.

The Photos Look Phony

Photos can be a great way to suss out the product you're eying in order to make sure its details, colors, and materials will fit with the rest of your home decor. (Plus, a few pictures will also give you a sense of the piece's quality and condition.) However, if a seller is posting photos that are from a website listing the product, rather than snapshots of an item in their home, it might be a sign that this seller doesn't actually have what they're selling. "If there are pictures that seem to be screenshots, that's also a red flag," Beck adds.

That said, hope isn't lost: You can always ask a seller for more photos. But at that point, if they don't provide any additional assets, you might want to drop the deal. "Often, when posts are from scammers, they have taken photos from Google and cannot provide any other pictures in the same location," explains Elizabeth Mahon, owner of Three Littles, a children's store in Washington D.C.

The Description Isn't...Well, Descriptive

Similarly, descriptions can offer some excellent insight into the function and quality of a piece—and any suspect storytelling should be met with skepticism. "Be diligent in reading descriptions, checking, locations, and photos," Beck warns. "When communicating with sellers, use your discretion if anything at all feels off." Striking up a conversation with a seller and asking more questions can either ease your worries or strengthen your skepticism. Ultimately, you need to trust your gut!

They're Talking Money Before Picking Up

A seller asking you to pay for an item in full before you see it in-person is a scamming classic. While Beck says that some high-end sellers may require payment to hold an item, "no legitimate business will threaten you or make you uncomfortable if you would like to see the piece in person prior to purchase."

That said, Mahon learned the hard way that this scam tactic can also happen when you're a seller. When she was selling a dresser on Facebook Marketplace for $700, she received a message from a potential buyer who was willing to put down $300 as a "hold fee." Mahon explains the plan: "I would hold the dresser for her with the understanding that I would send her the $300 back." The check arrived two days later; she cashed it, and it cleared.

When Mahon messaged "the buyer" to let her know the check was received, the woman asked her to Venmo back the $300 because her son was coming to pick up the dresser that day. "

"I agreed since the check had cleared, but no one ever showed up," Mahon recalls. "She deleted our messages as soon as I sent her back the $300, and then I got a notification from my bank that it was a 'stolen check.' I was out the $300 I sent her for 'holding' the dresser for her." The lesson? "Never to send money to anyone you haven't met in person, even if they sent it to you first," she warns.

They're Also Asking for Personal Information

Buying and selling anything on Facebook Marketplace is a relatively straightforward process: Once both parties agree on a price and meetup location, the buyer brings the money and the seller brings the item. It's a simple transaction, so why would someone ask for your credit card number or wiring information? "Never provide personal information, codes, or email verifications," Beck shares. "No legitimate seller will request these things." While some buyers may want to pick up bulkier items from a seller's home, do not disclose your personal address if that's outside of your comfort zone. Which leads us to our next point...

The Meetup Spot is Ultra-Private

One of the scariest things about buying something on Facebook Marketplace is that you never know who you'll be meeting. That's exactly why Beck exercises proper safety measures whenever she's buying and selling. If someone is coming to get something from your house, she advises, "never be home alone and schedule the pickup for daytime hours. If at any point you feel slightly uncomfortable in your conversation via messenger, cancel the meeting even if it means losing a sale." To err on the side of safety, Beck recommends meeting up at a public space with a lot of people and security cameras such as a shopping mall or police station. At the end of the day, it's better to be safe that sorry—or scammed!

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