Published: February 21, 2024
17 min read

17 Facebook Marketplace scams to avoid in 2024

Oliver Buxton

Staff writer

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A woman looks at her phone while learning about Facebook Marketplace scams.

Facebook Marketplace is about as safe as any other online marketplace, but it still has its fair share of scammers looking to rip you off or steal your identity. Keep yourself safer by learning about common Facebook Marketplace scams, and get LifeLock Standard to help safeguard your finances and protect against identity fraud. 

Thanks to its huge user base, Facebook Marketplace has almost everything you could ever want to buy or sell. While it’s great to unload something you don’t need or buy something you do, Facebook Marketplace still has drawbacks.

Like every online marketplace, scammers lurk there to take advantage of people, steal their money and items, or even trick them into revealing information that could lead to identity theft.

Let’s look at some of the payment, product and inventory, and social engineering scams you might run into on Facebook Marketplace, along with some tips for how to steer clear of them.

Payment scams

Payment scams can take many forms. Some may try to get you to make a payment to an anonymous account using a payment app. Others may try to steal your personally identifiable information by pretending to be someone trustworthy and reputable.

To avoid these scams, try to meet the other person face-to-face, or use a payment method or safe digital wallet, like PayPal, that can help protect you from fraud.

1. Gift card payment scams

In a gift card payment scam, a seller will try to get you to pay for the items they’re advertising with an untraceable prepaid digital gift card. Once you’ve sent the gift card, they’ll either block you or delete their account.

Illustrated chart explaining a type of Facebook Marketplace scam called a gift card scam.

2. Facebook Marketplace Venmo scams

Venmo scams can take many forms, but a few of the most common include:

  • Rental property deposit scams 
  • Phishing scams
  • Overpayment scams
  • Shipping scams

A scammer might create a fake listing for a rental property and ask you to send a deposit to a Venmo account. Others may use the platform to trick you into thinking they overpaid on the app or assume the identity of a Venmo employee claiming that there’s a problem they need your account details to resolve.

3. Facebook Marketplace Cash App scams

Cash App scams are similar to Venmo scams. A scammer will pretend to be a seller or to have a property for rent, only to disappear once they’ve stolen your money (and possibly other people’s money).

It’s smart to only use Cash App to pay people you know or wait until you have the item you’re trying to buy in hand before you pay a seller.

4. Facebook Marketplace Zelle scams

A Zelle scam on Facebook Marketplace follows the same pattern as Venmo and Cash App scams. A scammer might try to get your account details by pretending to work for Zelle.

Scammers may also send you a fake payment confirmation to get you to send an item quickly, or they could ask you to send a deposit for a rental using Zelle. These are big red flags. 

5. Overpayment scams

In an overpayment scam, a buyer will send you more than the asking price for an item and then request that you return the overage. While that may seem like the right thing to do, the scammer will then file a chargeback so they get the full purchase price back, plus the extra money you sent to correct the overage.

Another variation of this scam is when the buyer sends you a screenshot supposedly confirming that a transfer was successful but that they sent too much. Always look at your account or call your bank to confirm funds have arrived. If they haven’t, the screenshot is likely fake and the buyer never paid any money.

Illustrated chart explaining a type of Facebook Marketplace scam called an overpayment scam.

6. Facebook Marketplace wire transfer scams

Scam buyers and sellers will often pretend to be in another country and request a quick payment — this is a red flag for a wire transfer scam. Scammers on Facebook Marketplace may send fake wire transfer confirmations to get you to send an item, or they can use it as a pretext to get your bank account numbers and other personal information.

While you may be able to reverse some wire transfers, there’s no guarantee that you can get your money back if you wire it to someone.

Product and inventory scams

Scammers have come up with many ways to trick people into paying for something that’s broken, doesn’t exist, or isn’t what they advertised. Here’s a tip: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common Facebook Marketplace scams related to products and inventory. With this information, you’ll know how to spot (and avoid) them for safer online shopping.

7. Bait-and-switch scams

In this scam, you’ll come across something you want at a great price. But when you receive it, it’s something very different. It could be that you bought the empty box that a new gaming system came in, thinking it was the system itself, or you bought a printout of the photo used on the listing.

If buying locally, try to meet the seller in a safe, public place to verify that the item you’re buying is legitimate. If they refuse to meet with you, it’s probably a sign that they’re running a scam.

8. Facebook Marketplace shipping scams

Shipping scams on Facebook Marketplace might include:

  • Sellers never shipping items you paid for.
  • Buyers sending prepaid shipping labels, preventing you from tracking or verifying that an item arrived at its proper destination.
  • Buyers sending fake payment confirmation and asking for expedited shipping.
  • Buyers asking you to ship an item before they’ve paid with the promise that they’ll pay for it later.

Because it’s easy for scammers to take advantage of the shipping variables, it’s a good idea to only deal with people you can meet or with high ratings. If you want to sell and ship many items, starting an online store and using a payment processor that provides scam protection might be a good idea.

9. Facebook Marketplace car scams

Car scams are big business on nearly every online marketplace. Many of these scams are a variation of some of the other scams we’ve discussed, but there are a few automotive-specific scams to look out for, including:

  • Fake VIN checks and vehicle reports
  • Fake escrow accounts
  • Malicious links to sites outside of Facebook
  • Listed vehicles on behalf of someone who is out of the country

If you’re looking to buy a car, you should always drive one before you buy it. If the seller won’t let you, it probably means something is wrong with it. If you’re selling a car, don’t click any links a buyer sends as they could lead to a malicious site or download.

Illustrated chart explaining a type of Facebook Marketplace scam called a car scam.

10. Fake or stolen items

There’s almost no way for you to know for certain if an item listed on Facebook Marketplace is fake or stolen, but there are a few signs that you could be dealing with someone selling hot merchandise.

Avoid buying if the seller:

  • Lists the item far below market value.
  • Is pressuring you to make a deal quickly.
  • Claims they’re selling an item for someone else.
  • Won’t tell you when and where they purchased the item.
  • Is offering a large number of expensive items.

11. Rental scams

There are several rental scams to be aware of. Some scammers create a fake listing for a property that isn’t available to lure victims into sending payments like a security deposit. Another is hijacking legitimate ads and requesting a fee to view a property. If anyone asks you to send money by wire transfer or a payment app before viewing a property that’s a huge red flag.

Other rental scammers will advertise “lease-free” properties that don’t require you to sign a lease. If you don’t have a good credit score, this might sound like a great way to get into a new home, but it’s a scam — leases protect both the renter and the property owner. Anyone offering a property with no protection for themself probably just wants to trick people into sending them money.

12. Faulty item scams

In this scam, a person sells something that they know is broken or doesn’t function correctly. To hide obvious defects, they might use photos they found on the internet of the same item or vague language that doesn’t make it clear whether it works or not.

To avoid these scams, try to meet the seller in person. If you’re buying something that must be shipped, follow Facebook Marketplace’s guidelines to protect your purchase.

Social engineering scams

Scammers thrive by tricking people into giving up information they normally wouldn’t. Keep reading to learn about common social engineering scams and how to avoid them.

13. Phishing scams

While it’s easy to think of phishing as a scam targeting elderly people, anyone is at risk of being phished. The more time you spend online, the more likely you’ll encounter these scammers.

To avoid phishing attempts:

  • Use Facebook Messenger to communicate with sellers and buyers.
  • Don’t click links strangers send.
  • Don’t fill out surveys.
  • Don’t use links that take you away from Facebook to log into other accounts.

14. Fake giveaway scams

Facebook Marketplace is an online destination for buying and selling. So, if someone offers something for free — especially if the language they’re using sounds like you’re winning a contest, prize, or promotion — it’s probably a scam.

Keep your data privacy in mind when anyone asks you to fill out a form for a supposedly free item. Ask yourself why they need that data and how bad actors could misuse it.

Illustrated chart explaining a type of Facebook Marketplace scam called a fake giveaway scam.

15. Verification code scams

This is when scammers send a code to your phone saying they need it to verify your identity before they sell/buy an item. If you share the code with them, they’ll use it to access one of your accounts or create a fake account in your name. The purpose could be stealing your identity or money, or scamming your contacts.

If someone sends you a verification code, delete it, report them to Facebook, and block them. It could also be a good time to fortify your accounts by boosting your password security.

16. QR code scams

The purpose of a QR code scam is to get you to scan a fake code that may lead to a phishing site (like fake online banking to purchase an item) or result in malicious software getting onto your device. If someone sends you a QR code, delete it, report them to Facebook, and block them.

17. Immediate interest scams

Whenever you list something for sale, you dream of someone reaching out and buying it for the full price immediately. But if that happens, take a moment and make sure it’s a legitimate offer. Scammers can deploy bots to respond to all new listings to trick sellers into sharing financial or personal information.

If someone is interested a little too quickly, look at their profile to see if they’re real and check if they have any negative reviews as a buyer or seller on their account.

How to avoid scams on Facebook Marketplace

There’s no way to stay clear of all scam attempts. But, the following tips can help you learn how to avoid falling for Facebook Marketplace scams by recognizing them before you lose money or put your personal information at risk.

Only communicate using Facebook

Facebook Messenger is a fairly safe way to communicate with people, even people you don’t know (like buyers and sellers on Facebook Marketplace). Meta has invested a lot of money to secure Messenger, so scammers will try almost anything to get you out of that ecosystem.

If you start communicating outside of Messenger and there’s a dispute that Facebook needs to mediate, they may not side with you if you agreed to chat outside their environment.

Avoid anything that seems too good to be true

While we’ve all read stories about someone picking up a priceless painting at a garage sale for a bargain, the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. If you see something priced far below market value or the information in the listing doesn’t quite match the pictures, you could be dealing with a fake listing or a stolen item.

You could reach out to the seller to learn more about the item, but you may quickly find that it’s a scammer trying to steal your money or a thief trying to get rid of stolen property.

Use a scam detection app

It can be tough to sniff out a well-planned scam, especially one you’re not expecting that uses a new tactic. For an extra layer of security, use a scam detector to determine if an offer is legitimate.

Norton Genie is a powerful scam detection app that lets you upload a suspicious screenshot or copy and paste a questionable message. Then, the AI scans it and lets you know how likely the post or message is to be a scam so you can make a more informed decision.

Use trusted payment providers

Facebook Marketplace lets you pay for purchases using their built-in payment system and safe digital wallet called Meta Pay. With Meta Pay, you can connect several payment methods to your account without exposing the details to buyers or sellers. The payment methods you can add to Meta Pay are:

  • Credit cards
  • Debit cards
  • PayPal 

Meet in a safe, public place

When buying locally, ask the other person to meet you somewhere public and safe. Not only does a safe location benefit you, it benefits them, too. If they won’t meet you, you may want to break off the deal — it could be a sign of a scam.

Bring someone you trust to the meeting, and be sure to let the buyer or seller know that you won’t be alone. You don’t want to intimidate anyone, but you also don’t want to put yourself in an unsafe situation.

Don’t pay until you have the item

If you’re dealing with someone in your area and you’ve agreed to pick up your purchase, don’t pay them until you’ve had a chance to see the item you’re buying. If you send payment ahead of time, the seller may never show up, or you may be stuck with an item that isn’t what you paid for.

Don’t deal with high-pressure buyers or sellers

High-pressure buyers and sellers aren’t just annoying — they’re more likely to be scammers trying to get what they want by exerting pressure on people. If you want to protect yourself, you can simply block them. 

Look for negative reviews

Facebook Marketplace lets you check out a seller’s ratings and reviews. If you see someone with many negative reviews and a low rating, you probably want to avoid dealing with them.

Also, look at the seller’s other listings to see if they’re trying to sell the same thing in many different areas that aren’t close to one another or if they have a strange mix of items.

Report scammers

Facebook makes reporting scammers and scam listings easy. In Marketplace, find the seller, then click the three horizontal dots to report something that doesn’t look right.

If you buy or sell something on Facebook Marketplace and get scammed with a fake product or a fraudulent payment, report it to your local police agency. By reporting these crimes, you help yourself and could prevent others from falling victim to the same scammer.

An illustrated chart that provides tips for avoiding Facebook Marketplace scams.

Stay safer when buying and selling online

The effects of identity theft can have an impact on your finances for years to come. Take proactive action to make sure you stay safe when buying and selling on online platforms. LifeLock Standard offers protections like credit report monitoring, Dark Web Monitoring, and expert legal services that can help limit your exposure and expedite recovery if somebody steals your identity. Sign up for LifeLock today.

FAQs about scams on Facebook Marketplace

Have more questions about Facebook Marketplace scams? We have answers.

Is Facebook Marketplace safe?

Facebook Marketplace is generally safe. Most people who use it aren’t looking to scam or take advantage of you. But you should still take precautions like not sharing personal information or financial information with strangers, and if you’re meeting in person, do so in a safe public place and have someone you trust with you.

Can I get my money back if I get scammed on Facebook Marketplace?

Depending on the situation, you may be able to get your money back. If you used the Facebook checkout feature to pay, you’re covered by Facebook’s Purchase Protection Policies. Those won’t cover all scenarios, but they will cover you if you don’t receive an order or the item doesn’t match the description in the listing.

How do I verify a buyer on Facebook Marketplace?

It may not be possible to completely verify a buyer on Facebook Marketplace. Here are a few things a trustworthy buyer will have on their profile.

  • A clear photo of themselves
  • Their name
  • Friends (not a new profile)

Should I give someone my address on Facebook Marketplace?

If you’re buying something that needs to be shipped, you can’t avoid giving someone your address on Facebook Marketplace. But if you’re buying or selling locally, you should ask the other person to meet you in a safe public place.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock 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.

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