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Smithville PD Warns to Beware of Marketplace Scams

The Smithville Police Department is warning the public to be aware of scams that arise from using on Facebook Marketplace, and offer some advice on how to be safe.

To buy and sell safely on Facebook Marketplace, you should check seller and buyer profiles, meet in a public place when selling or purchasing an item, have a friend or relative accompany you for the exchange of goods, use secure payment methods and more.

Continue reading to learn more about Facebook Marketplace scams and how to stay safe from them when selling or buying on the platform.

What Is Facebook Marketplace?

Facebook Marketplace is a section of Facebook where you can use your account to discover, buy and sell new or used items such as sporting goods or furniture. Facebook Marketplace uses your geographic location to determine items that are listed for sale near you. When you spot an item you want to purchase, you contact the seller via the Messenger app and offer a price. If the seller accepts your offer, you make a plan with the seller on how you’re going to pick up the item and pay for it.

Facebook Marketplace is a convenient way for users to purchase items at a discount. You can think of Facebook Marketplace as similar to Craigslist or Ebay.

When buying or selling on Facebook Marketplace, all contact between a seller and buyer takes place on the Messenger app. Facebook strongly encourages you not to exchange phone numbers for personal safety reasons.

How To Safely Buy on Facebook Marketplace

Here are a few tips for buying on Facebook Marketplace safely.

Check seller profiles and reviews

One of the first things you should do before deciding whether you want to buy an item off of Facebook Marketplace is to check the profile and reviews of the seller. Fraudulent sellers often make fake profiles to trick potential buyers into buying an item that they don’t actually have.

When checking a seller’s profile, you may notice reviews left by other buyers. Pay attention to what those reviews have said about the seller. If a seller’s profile does not have reviews, you’ll want to be careful about purchasing an item from them because no reviews can be a sign of a fake profile or an unvetted seller.

Pick up items instead of having them delivered

Facebook Marketplace asks sellers if they want to enable the option to ship items rather than have the buyer pick them up. A common scam on Facebook Marketplace takes advantage of this feature by taking payment for an item, but never shipping it, or shipping an item in worse condition than advertised. It’s best to pick up the item instead, because it allows you to inspect it in person to determine if the item being sold is as described by the seller. Picking up the item in person also ensures that you aren’t being scammed into paying for an item that you won’t receive.

Meet the seller in a public place

When picking up an item that you plan to purchase, make sure you choose to meet the seller in a public place, if possible. This may not be possible with larger items like couches or other types of big furniture. If you know the item you’re purchasing is small, meeting the seller in a public place is the best way to pick it up because you’ll know there will be other people around you in case anything happens such as the seller trying to rob you.

To be extra safe, you can ask if the seller can meet you in front of a police station.

Have a friend accompany you when picking up an item

When picking up an item you’re purchasing from Facebook Marketplace, especially if it’s a larger item you need to pick up from the seller’s house, you should never go alone. Always have a friend or relative accompany you. If you don’t have a person to accompany you on the day and time you’re going to pick up the item, let a friend or relative know when and where you’re meeting the seller.

Inspect the item you’re buying before paying

Some sellers may attempt to scam you into purchasing an item that is not as they described online. Before paying the seller, inspect the item thoroughly to ensure that it meets expectations and that you want to purchase it how it is.

Use secure payment methods

When buying an item from Facebook Marketplace, make sure you’re always using secure payment methods. One secure payment method includes PayPal, which will investigate fraud claims for you, as a buyer, unlike Venmo.

When paying for an item, avoid paying with cash, especially if you know the item you’re paying for requires you to carry large amounts of it. Instead, choose PayPal as your form of payment or another 3rd party application that investigates fraud claims. Carrying large amounts of cash makes you a target. If something were to happen during your transaction, you risk losing your money. If the seller insists that you pay them in cash, this should be a red flag that they may be a scammer.

How to Safely Sell on Facebook Marketplace

Here are a few tips for selling on Facebook Marketplace safely.

Check buyer profiles and reviews

Similar to buying an item from Facebook Marketplace, you should also check the buyer’s profile and reviews when you’re selling an item. Many scammers will create fake Facebook accounts and pretend they want to purchase an item. When sellers are scammed on Facebook Marketplace, what often happens is buyers pay and it looks like the payment goes through, but later on it’s rejected, meaning sellers never receive the payment. Sellers essentially give an item away for free. 

Meet the buyer in a public place

When selling an item on Facebook Marketplace, try to avoid meeting the buyer at your home whenever you can, and instead meet them in a public place. This might not be possible for larger items that are difficult to move. However, with any item you can easily carry, meeting the buyer in a public place is the most secure option. This ensures that you’re surrounded by others in case anything were to go wrong.

Notify a friend or relative that you’re meeting someone

When meeting a potential buyer, you should try your best to have a friend or relative tag along with you. If this is not possible, the next best thing is to notify a friend or relative where and when you’ll be meeting the buyer for the exchange of goods.

Don’t accept overpayment

Some scammers will attempt to overpay you when paying for the item they want to purchase. Never accept the overpayment, it’s a sign of a common scam. A scammer will overpay you so they can ask you to pay the difference. If you pay the difference, you’ll see that the initial payment that the buyer sent was false and you never successfully received it – meaning you will have lost both the money you “returned” and the item you “sold.”

Don’t hand the item over until you receive the payment

When it comes to selling an item, you have to be careful about handing the item over until you receive a legitimate payment. Handing over an item and walking away without checking if the payment is legitimate means you may have given an item away for free.

The Risks of Buying and Selling on Facebook Marketplace

Here are a few risks of buying and selling on Facebook Marketplace.

Can lead to financial loss

Scams are everywhere, including on Facebook Marketplace. If you don’t take precautions when buying or selling items on Facebook Marketplace, you may end up losing money. According to Tech Jury, over one billion users are active on Facebook Marketplace and scammers have targeted one in six of those users.

Two of the most common scams on Facebook Marketplace are scammers approaching users with fake Facebook accounts and scammers not delivering items that buyers have already paid for.

Bait-and-switch scams

Bait-and-switch is a scam in which sellers offer a too-good-to-be-true deal on an item. When attempting to purchase the item, the seller may raise the price. In this type of scam, the seller lures potential buyers with low prices and then tries to sell them a different item that is more expensive. If you notice that after messaging a buyer they increase the price of the item, don’t continue messaging them, as this is a bait-and-switch scam.

Fake payments

Scammers also target sellers on Facebook Marketplace. A common scam that targets sellers is fake payments. This may be by a scammer sending you a fake screenshot that they’ve sent you a payment when in reality they haven’t. You should always ensure that you successfully receive payment from the buyer before shipping out an item or handing it to them.

What To Do if You’ve Been Scammed on Facebook Marketplace

If you’ve been scammed when attempting to buy or sell on Facebook Marketplace, here’s what you should do.

Report the seller or buyer to Facebook

If you believe you’ve been scammed on Facebook Marketplace, the first thing you should do is report the seller or buyer to Facebook. To do this, take the following steps:

1.            Log into your Facebook account.

2.            Click the Marketplace symbol.

3.            Click on the seller’s profile that you wish to report.

4.            Click the seller’s name.

5.            Click the three dots, and then click “Report.”

6.            Follow the instructions on your screen.

File a police report

Apart from reporting the seller or buyer to Facebook, you may also report them to your local police department. Filing a police report will help the police be aware of Facebook Marketplace scams happening locally.

File a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

After reporting the seller or buyer to Facebook and filing a police report, file a report to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can do this by going to their site. Reporting the crime to the FBI helps them register scams and determine if there are any patterns and trends they can use to catch scammers and other cybercriminals.

Keep Safe From Facebook Marketplace Scams

Facebook Marketplace is a convenient way to shop for items at a discounted price, but because it’s online, it comes with the risk of online scammers. When buying or selling on Facebook Marketplace, make sure you’re following the tips above to keep yourself safe and avoid financial losses.