Billion-user Facebook Marketplace is a prime scam target: Internet Scambusters #1,066
Most online shopping scams start on Facebook's Marketplace trading site. But if you use the site, there are ways you can spot a scam and take action to avoid the fraudsters.
In this week's issue, we'll tell you how they happen and how to avoid these scams.
Plus, we have details on how to claim compensation from Facebook for its alleged collection of user data.
Let's get started…
12 Facebook Marketplace Scams And How To Beat Them
A car buyer on the lookout for a new truck allegedly got taken for a ride to the tune of $15,000 after she spotted an enticing ad on Facebook Marketplace.
She drove for four hours with a stack of cash for a parking lot meet-up, handed it over to the supposed seller while in the cab of the new truck, and was then ordered out at gunpoint, allowing the alleged crook to drive away.
This was at the extreme end of a dollar range of Marketplace scams that happen every day in the US.
The Marketplace site has more than a billion users and, according to UK banking site Thinkmoney, statistics suggest one in every seven transactions is a scam. The scale of the crime is so horrendous that a report from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says the vast majority of online transaction scams happen there and on its sister site Instagram.
And, while most of the tricks don't involve being chased away at gunpoint, many of them share common features.
For example, sales scams nearly always rely on sending payments by untraceable methods such as cybercurrency/cryptocurrency, gift cards, or cash wiring services. And oftentimes victims are lured into dealing with a crook outside of the official sites, thus voiding Facebook's protection rules.
12 Common Marketplace Scams
Crooks use dozens of different tricks to fool their victims. Here are 12 of the most common Facebook Marketplace scams:
- Fake listings. Crooks use stolen photos to list nonexistent sale items and demand payment upfront.
- Fake accounts. Crooks set up and use these so they can't be identified or traced.
- Phishing. Fake buyers and sellers send victims a link to supposedly complete a transaction, but it takes them to a bogus sign-on page where their credentials are stolen.
- Counterfeits. We touched on this topic in our recent report on Etsy scams: 10 Ways To Protect Yourself From Etsy Scammers. Bogus designer items are sold at a knockdown price.
- Shipping scams. Fraudsters send bogus shipping and tracking notices to buyers to trick them into sending payments, but the item never arrives.
- Overpayment. This is the familiar and well-used scam in which a seller gets a dud check or stolen card payment for more than their asking price. Then the scammer asks for the overage to be refunded.
- Deposit demands. To lower suspicions about paying upfront, scam sellers just ask for a deposit as a show of faith or to reserve an item - which never arrives.
- Bogus or misleading rental homes. Scammers use stolen photos of properties they don't own, charge additional fees such as insurance, or try bait-and-switch tactics by telling renters the cheap home they were after is no longer available but a more expensive one is.
- Broken and damaged products. You pay after you receive the item but send the money before you check it. Then you can't get your money back when you discover a fault.
- "Free" crypto. Victims are lured in by an offer of free Bitcoins and other cybercurrencies, but they have to click a link to supposedly get them. Instead, they get a load of malware installed on their computers.
- Google voice hijack. A buyer asks for your phone number, then uses it to register for a Google Voice account. The crook will then ask you to call them with a verification code sent by Google. This opens a pathway to identity theft.
- Fake escrow services. (See our report on this tactic here: Escrow Services Scams and Fake College Degrees.)
How to Protect Yourself Against Marketplace Scams
Many of the safeguards against so many other areas of potential fraud also apply to Facebook Marketplace. So:
- Check a seller's profile. Beware of new sellers and those with negative reviews.
- Refuse to go off-site for a transaction. Stay on Facebook, buying and selling through its official channel.
- Check any item you purchased immediately.
- Buy local if you can so you can meet a buyer or seller in person. But take someone else with you and be cautious about a situation where you'd be left alone with them.
- Don't click links in messages and ads. If a seller says they have more details or photos via a link, ask them to email them to you instead.
- Don't hand over confidential financial info like bank account and credit card details. As above, use Facebook's own secure payment system.
- Never pay by untraceable methods or agree to refund an overpayment.
- Beware of shipping labels. Sometimes crooks send victims a label in which the address either can't be deciphered or can subsequently be changed by the scammer. Don't accept or use them.
- Keep records of all communications in case you need to make a claim.
And, as always, don't be tricked by bargain prices. Generally, they're anything but!
Facebook Marketplace does have programs in place to protect buyers and sellers, but they are somewhat restrictive. Start here to learn more. And if you think you're already a victim, report the scam to them.
This Week's News Alert
Facebook Payout: Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is preparing to pay compensation to users following the controversy over data collection by Cambridge Analytica. Pretty well all users, up to December 22, 2022, are entitled to a share of the $725 million agreed by the company. Learn more and how to claim.
BUT BEWARE! Scammers will almost certainly jump in on this opportunity. They may try to charge fees to make your claim (but it's really free) or simply try to get your compensation by impersonating you. Work via the link above and you should be able to stay safe.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!