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April 24, 2024

We recently had a message from reader Mike D. in Conover, NC about some Facebook Marketplace scams that he said he had come across and wanted to let others know about. This is what he has to say.

“Hey Kurt:

I’ve broken a few facebook market Scams of the past few years. We were looking for a boat a few years ago. We finally bought one, but before we did, I came across a really nice pontoon boat for too low a price.

The story of this “lady” is that her husband died and she was moving to another state to live with her in-laws or parents. So when I contacted her I got an email saying I would get a payment email from eBay because she had moved.

Of course, red flags have been raised. But after doing some research, it’s clear that eBay does some fulfillment. Of course when I get the email they expect payment via eBay gift card, Walmart gift card, etc. The second key point is that I found the same boat in Hickory NC, Raleigh NC and somewhere in SC with the same story. Well… I think they think most people don’t look 50 miles away.

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Facebook Marketplace on iPad (Cyberguy.com)

Since then I’ve found several people doing this boat, jeep, p/u truck etc. Do an image search, and when you see the same image appearing in different cities (and sometimes states), you have a scammer. I report them and sometimes I even let them know what kind of scum they are. ” — Mike D., Conover, NC

We thank Mike for telling us about these red flags. With so many scams happening on Facebook Marketplace, it’s always a good idea to stay vigilant and report any post that looks suspicious, even if you haven’t dealt directly with the person. Here are some red flags to watch out for.

Red flags to watch out for on Facebook Marketplace

1) Check the person’s Facebook profile

A big red flag that someone might be a scammer is if they don’t have many friends, photos or posts on their profile page. You should also check to see if the person joined Facebook recently or if they have been on the platform for a while. The longer the profile is and the more posts the person makes, the more likely it is that he is a real person and not a scammer.

Also, look for any unusual or inconsistent information in their profiles, such as conflicting details about their location or personal background. Scammers may try to deceive by providing inconsistent information. Paying attention to these details can help you make a more informed decision before engaging in any dealings with them. Before you agree to sell or buy anything from them, you should be able to find out who the person is from their profile.

2) Ask for payment in the form of a gift card

As you can see from Mike’s message above, one common trick scammers might try on Facebook Marketplace is asking people to pay in the form of a gift card. This is a classic method scammers use all the time, even outside of Facebook Marketplace.

Beware of ZELLE Scam on Facebook Marketplace

The reason they want people to pay with gift cards is that gift cards are not traceable. If you pay someone in the form of a gift card and it turns out to be a scam, it’s next to impossible for your bank or credit card company to help you get that money back.

With at least a debit or credit card, the bank or credit card company can trace the source of the fraudulent payment and help you pay it back. Gift cards can’t do that.

Facebook Marketplace on a laptop

facebook market (Cyberguy.com)

It’s basically like giving money to a complete stranger for free. Anyone asking to pay with a gift card is a scammer. Now, in addition to paying with gift cards, there are a few other red flags you can watch out for on Facebook Marketplace.

for more of my Scam and Security Alertsto subscribe to my free CYBERGUY Reports newsletter, go to CYBERGUY.COM/Newsletters

3) Multiple posts of the same item

This is another major red flag. Scammers typically take an item and try to place numerous advertisements for it in different parts of the country. This is common in false rental advertisements for apartments and homes.

Why do scammers often get away with using multiple posts of the same item?

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Because many people have distance restrictions on their willingness to purchase goods. Many people don’t think to check whether the same item is sold in other parts of the country. When you find an item you want to buy, try expanding your search and see if you see duplicates of the same item. If you see the same story elsewhere, the item being sold may be a scam and you should report it to Facebook.

4) Some manipulation tactics used by scammers

Win people’s sympathy and trust: Often, scammers will try to gain sympathy and trust by disguising themselves as innocent or even helpless. Their profile photo might be of an elderly woman or a mother with a child. In Mike’s case, they might even tell a sad story, like “My husband passed away and now I have to sell this thing.”

Invoke trust and reduce suspicion: By portraying themselves as innocent and vulnerable, scammers aim to disarm you emotionally. When someone seems to be stuck or facing challenges, our natural inclination is to help and support them. This sympathetic response lowers your vigilance and makes you more susceptible to the scammer’s tricks.

shoes on phone

Try using both Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp to see which gives you the best selling experience, or try another site. (CyberGuy.com)

create a sense of urgency: Dire stories involving tragedy or suffering often carry a sense of urgency. A scammer may claim that he needs to sell the item quickly due to financial difficulties or impending relocation. This urgency can prompt you to make hasty decisions without properly verifying the authenticity of the situation or the legitimacy of the offer.

access to personal information: Acting compassionate and trustworthy is an effective way for scammers to trick you into revealing personal information. The more emotionally invested you are in helping scammers, the more likely you are to share sensitive details that can then be used for identity theft or other fraudulent purposes.

Guilt and Emotional Manipulation: Some scammers don’t just seek sympathy; they use guilt and emotional manipulation to extract money or favors from their victims. They may make you feel guilty, hold you accountable for their plight, or convince them that their help will bring about a major positive change in their life.

Avoid Doubt and Consequences: By disguising themselves as seemingly innocent people facing distress, scammers hope to evade suspicion and reduce the likelihood of facing legal consequences for their fraudulent activities. Law enforcement officers and victims may be less willing to suspect wrongdoing when they hear heartbreaking stories.

Of course, in the end, it’s also possible that the person who sold the item experienced a real tragedy; however, you should trust your instincts and be careful that they don’t try to trick you into feeling sorry for them.

Staying Safe on Facebook Marketplace: Tips for Buyers and Sellers

Avoid sharing personal information

You should strictly discuss anything you sell or buy on Facebook Marketplace on Facebook and Facebook Messenger. Avoid giving your phone number, email address, or any other personal information to the person you are talking to.

meet in public

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When handing over your item to a potential buyer or receiving an item from a potential seller, consider whether you can meet in a neutral public place so that you avoid any potential risks of meeting strangers in unfamiliar or private locations. Public spaces such as coffee shops, shopping malls or community centers are ideal for this type of transaction as they provide a safe and visible environment.

Secure a reputable shipping service or delivery

If meeting in person isn’t feasible, consider using a reputable shipping or delivery service that offers tracking and insurance options for added security. Always verify the details of the transaction, such as the condition of the item, price and any agreed terms, before finalizing the transaction.

woman depressed

Frustrated woman on her laptop (Cyberguy.com)

trust your gut

Also, trust your instincts. If it feels suspicious or uncomfortable, it’s best to reconsider the transaction or consult a friend or family member before proceeding.

for more of my Scam and Security Alertsto subscribe to my free CYBERGUY Reports newsletter, go to CYBERGUY.COM/Newsletters

Report Marketplace Scams to Facebook

facebook has a help center pages dedicated to identify fraud on Facebook Marketplace. This page provides information on what scams are, how to spot them and what to do if you encounter one.

Kurt’s key takeaways

We all know that Facebook Marketplace has a big scam problem, and while it’s still a great and convenient tool for buying and selling items, be careful not to be so quick to trust people.

Remember that you may meet people you have never met before, so remember to read everything carefully and never share any personal information that is necessary to make a sale.

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