Jacqui Gomersall and Sarah Guernelli
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning online shoppers to be careful after an increase in Facebook Marketplace scams, especially for big-ticket items like used cars and RVs.
The BBB said the first warning sign is a seller trying to get your money up front.
“You wire or you use one of these third-party money apps and you never receive the car, and you are out the money,” the BBB’s Paula Fleming told 12 News.
According to Fleming, people have reported losing anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars because the listing seemed so believable.
“The bigger the ticket, like a car, it’s not uncommon to have a payment required,” she explained. “But if you are not going through a car dealer, a reputable business … it’s really hard to know who is on the other end.”
How the scam works
The seller tells the prospective buyer they are out of the country or otherwise unavailable and will be using a third-party company to sell and ship the item.
The seller then assures the buyer they will have a chance to see and test drive the vehicle before committing to the purchase, but they must first send money using a prepaid debit card to Amazon or eBay.
The seller says the sites will act as an escrow service, according to the BBB, and if the buyer isn’t happy with the purchase, they can simply return it for a full refund.
“When using Facebook Marketplace, best to do so when you can feel, touch and see the products firsthand,” Fleming added.
How to avoid scams on Facebook Marketplace
- Always meet the seller and see the item for sale before purchasing. This will help to avoid most scams on Facebook Marketplace. This also goes for housing rentals. If you can’t tour the house or apartment before renting it – it’s likely not available.
- Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services. This scam is only one version of this trend. Avoid them by purchasing directly from the seller.
- Report scams to Facebook. If you’ve encountered a potential scam on Facebook Marketplace, file a report here.
- Check BBB Tips: Many sales scams use similar techniques. Visit the BBB’s website to learn more.