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Help protect yourself from scams on Facebook Marketplace

A woman wearing a straw hat and backpack browses a busy outdoor market, symbolizing caution against Facebook Marketplace scams.

Have you found that one coveted item on Facebook Marketplace but are nervous due to online scam stories? Like on any platform, scammers are known to lurk and take advantage of Facebook Marketplace. Learn the signs to look for so you can help avoid them and enjoy buying and selling safely on this popular marketplace. Then, get Norton 360 Deluxe for real-time digital threat protection and powerful online scam protection.

Is Facebook Marketplace safe?

Facebook Marketplace is generally a safe platform with strong security measures in place. But like in all online marketplaces, there are scammers who try to take advantage of people looking for a bargain or wanting to sell something.

As a popular social media network, Facebook makes it possible for strangers to connect easily on a mass scale to buy or sell goods. But how do you know whether an item or profile is legit? There are ways to make Facebook more private and help stay safe when buying or selling, including learning how to spot and avoid Facebook Marketplace scams.

Ways to stay safe on Facebook Marketplace

Whether you’re buying or selling on Facebook Marketplace, the rules for staying safe are the same — share as few personal details as possible, communicate with potential buyers and sellers on Facebook only, strengthen your Facebook account’s security, and learn common scams that tricksters use so you can help avoid them.

Avoid oversharing

As a rule of thumb, don’t share anything publicly on Facebook that you wouldn’t otherwise tell a stranger on the street. Regardless of how private you set your Facebook profile, it’s best not to overshare, especially when it comes to sensitive personal information.

Remember this rule when using Facebook Marketplace, as you’ll communicate with complete strangers who could be interested in stealing your personal data like your address, phone number, payment details, or other information that could be used to steal your money or identity.

Keep online communication on Facebook

While communicating with other users on Facebook Marketplace, stay on Facebook. That way, the platform has a recorded history of your communications in case anything goes wrong, and you’ll be in a stronger position to ask for help.

If a scammer leads you to another platform, they could send a message with an infected link that installs malware on your device. By using another platform, you will also need to give them more of your personal data like your email or phone number.

Strengthen your Facebook account's security

In just a few simple steps, you can help protect yourself and strengthen your Facebook account’s security. A good start is to set up alerts for unrecognised logins. You should also use two-factor authentication to make it more difficult for someone to hack your account.

For increased account security, make sure your password is strong and unique. If you’re tired of remembering your passwords for every account, use a password manager to keep track of them all. Norton Password Manager helps protect your passwords and keep your accounts safer by auto-generating high-strength passwords and keeping them secure.

How to recognise Facebook Marketplace scams in general

Fraudsters often use similar scams across different cybermarkets like Facebook Marketplace. Look out for these red flags: an item that’s too good to be true, strange or incomplete product listings, a suspicious profile, someone who wants to communicate off Facebook or use unofficial payment methods, or someone who tries to get personal information out of you.

Knowing what to look for helps you avoid these scammers before they reel you in. Here’s how to spot common Facebook Marketplace scams in more detail.

If it’s too good to be true – it probably is!

As the old saying goes, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” This holds true on marketplaces like Facebook, too. If an item is drastically cheaper than what you’d expect to pay, even if it’s second hand, chances are it’s likely a scam and the product is damaged, fake, or nonexistent.

If an item goes for next to nothing or is advertised as a giveaway, then it’s almost certainly a scam. The scammer could be trying to get you to pay for something you’ll never receive or something that isn’t what you expect. Or they could be using a phishing attack to trick you into clicking a malicious link to infect your device or capture personal information.

Strange or incomplete product listings

If you find a lack of information or pictures, or the pictures look too professional, like they’re taken from the internet, it could mean it’s a scam. Always check that the photos and description match, so you don’t end up buying an empty box when you should be getting the item inside.

Suspicious Facebook profiles

Always review a seller’s profile before showing interest in an item. You’ll be able to view their other listings, see if you have any friends in common, and see if they have ratings from previous sales. If this is their first and only item listed, and it’s expensive and seems too good to be true, it could very likely be a scam.

Refusing necessary steps in the transaction

If a buyer or seller insists on going outside of the proper process when making a transaction, you should steer clear. Sometimes, they might ask you to pay using a channel outside of official payment services that Facebook Marketplace recommends. They could even ask for a digital gift card, which is almost always going to end up a scam.

Some other red flags are if they refuse to meet up in person (if you live nearby) or request you to verify your identity, saying they want to be sure who they’re doing business with. In other cases, a fraudster might refuse to share specific product details or show the condition of the item.

Asking for unnecessary information

When you’re talking with a buyer or seller and they suddenly request your phone number, email, address, or any other details that are not necessary to share at that time, you should probably end the conversation. They may use clever social engineering tactics, so be careful.

Fraudsters will make these requests with a much grander scheme in mind, not just the product on Facebook Marketplace. In many cases, they might be trying to commit identity theft or steal your money.

How to recognise Facebook Marketplace scams by fake buyers

Some of the most common types of scams that fake buyers run on Facebook Marketplace include prepaid shipping-label scams, overpayment scams, and the Google Voice trick.

Sending you a prepaid shipping label

If a buyer offers to send you a shipping label they’ve already paid for, don’t accept the offer, as they’re almost certainly trying to scam you. If the scammer has bought the shipping label themselves, they control where you ship their item to, giving them the freedom to change the recipient address and divert the package.

Typically, scammers who send you a prepaid shipping label will later claim that they never received the package from you, because they diverted the shipment and will now try to claim a full refund. Ultimately, their plan is to dupe either you, Facebook, or both — and end up with the money and the item.

Overpaying by “accident”

Another common type of fake buyer on Facebook Marketplace is the “accidental” overpayer. These are fraudsters who pay too much for the item they bought and claim it was a mistake. They’ll then ask you to refund the difference via a non-traceable method like a cash app.

In these cases, there’s a chance the card they used to make the payment was stolen or they may not even have sent you any money and hope you don’t check before refunding the difference.

The Google Voice number scam

Buying scams on Facebook Marketplace aren’t limited to product orders. Some fake buyers will make it seem they think you’re suspicious and request that you verify your identity before they purchase an item.

Sometimes, the scammer will ask you for your phone number and then secretly register you for a Google Voice number that sends a verification code to your phone. The scammer will ask for the code, stating this will prove your identity and the details provided. If you give them the code, they can now use the Google Voice account in your name to commit further fraud.

How to recognise Facebook Marketplace scams by fake sellers

Some of the most common types of scams that fake sellers run on Facebook Marketplace involve the product being switched, fake, damaged, or nonexistent.

The “bait and switch”

Scammers on Facebook Marketplace often “bait” you into buying a product you want, then claim it’s unavailable and offer to send you a similar product instead. In the end, when you receive the product, you’ll find it is nothing like the original product you wanted, usually worth far less and inferior in quality.

They can also use this tactic to lure you in with a very good price. Again, once you’ve paid, they claim the item’s no longer available, but you could pay extra for a similar item they have that’s more expensive.

Selling fake or damaged products

If a seller isn’t providing images, details, or information on a product, it could be fake, broken, stolen, or damaged. That could also be true if the images and description they use are too professional and possibly reused from the internet.

The vanishing act

The vanishing act is a classic ploy that scammers use once they make off with your money. In this scam, an item never existed for sale in the first place so as soon as you send the fake seller money, they magically disappear.

What to do if you’re scammed on Facebook Marketplace

If you’re scammed on Facebook Marketplace, report the incident immediately to Facebook. If you followed the Facebook Marketplace guidelines throughout the transaction, you may be covered by Facebook’s Purchase Protection Policy.

Also, you can report online fraud to your national cybercrime office. They collect and collate data on cybercrime and forward reports to the local police or federal agencies responsible for handling cyber fraud. Do your own research to find the office that handles cybercrime in your area.

Protect against online scams

Now that you know how to identify Facebook Marketplace scams, level up your online protection with a dedicated cybersecurity tool. You never know when you might get caught up in a different type of scam that you didn't see coming.

Norton 360 Deluxe is an award-winning antivirus package that comes with multiple layers of protection for all your devices. You’ll benefit from a built-in VPN to help you browse anonymously and more securely, real-time threat protection, and much more. Get Norton 360 Deluxe for comprehensive online security and privacy.

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Emma McGowan
  • Emma McGowan
Emma McGowan is a privacy advocate & managing editor at Gen, formerly a freelance writer for outlets like Buzzfeed & Mashable. She enjoys reading, sewing, & her cats Dwight & Poe.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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