Red Flags That Signal a Facebook Marketplace Item Might Be A Scam | #datingscams | #lovescams | #facebookscams

Secondhand shopping can be a high-reward adventure—imagine a mid-century dresser offered for free to anyone who can haul it away the same day, or that designer couch left for the taking on a curb. But it also carries some risk. Savvy thrifters need to apply a healthy dose of skepticism, especially when scrolling Facebook Marketplace, which can be rife with scams.

“Unfortunately, Facebook Marketplace scams are very common and difficult to stop because of the speed and ease with which scammers can create new fraudulent listings,” says Kevin Lee, trust and safety architect at fraud prevention company Sift.

Many scammers, he says, are using automation and bots to quickly generate fraudulent listings, which means that even when scammy posts are reported and taken down, more pop up in a Whack-a-Mole kind of situation.

While there are all kinds of gems on Facebook Marketplace that are worth snapping up if you see them, there are also a few red flags to be mindful of when you’re shopping. To avoid the fraudsters, look out for these seven warning signs that often mean a Facebook Marketplace listing is a scam.

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Stock Photos or Poor Grammar in the Listing

A generic stock image of an item or real estate listing is a sure sign that the seller is whipping up a slew of fake listings, Lee says, and it stands to reason: Someone selling their old dining room furniture will post pictures of that, not a generic table and chairs image grabbed off the web.

Similarly, if you see wonky grammar errors or strange wording in the post, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled upon one of those aforementioned auto-generated fraudulent listings, Lee says. Unfortunately AI tools like Chat GPT make it easier for fraudsters to write more convincing prose, he warns, so a listing that reads well isn’t necessarily a sure sign that it’s legit.

male hands with mobile phone, computer in the background

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The Seller Wants Your Phone Number

When the seller tries to circumvent the Facebook Messenger platform to move the deal forward via text or on another messaging app, they could be up to something fishy, Lee says, whether it’s trying to gain info about your identity or just trying to hide from the oversight of Facebook itself. The site recommends only communicating with sellers through Facebook Messenger because having a full record of your conversation will come in handy should you need to report a fraudulent listing or there’s a problem with the purchase—plus, it doesn’t give the recipient sensitive info.

The Seller Insists on Giving You a Link for Payment

Never agree to pay the seller via a payment link, Lee warns. While it may seem like a streamlined way to close the deal, bad actors are likely using a payment link to capture your credit or debit card information.

A seller asking for prepayment or to be paid in gift cards should also set off warning bells, he says. While you may be able to dispute a charge with your credit card company if an item doesn’t show up, gift cards don’t have the same consumer protections.

Facebook Marketplace recommends that transactions take place over a secure person-to-person payment site like PayPal or Meta Pay in Messenger.

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Brand New Items Are Listed at Bargain Prices

According to Lee, some of the most popular scams involve brand new items, like newly released iPhones and gaming consoles that are in high demand, that have been deceptively discounted. “These offers can be very appealing when the items are sold out elsewhere or the fraudster is offering a significant discount,” he says. These listings, though, are often just a ploy to get your cash or payment info, so look for other red flags such as stock photo listings, a seller trying to circumvent the Messenger app, and sketchy payment requests. If you spot any of these, steer clear.

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Luxury Items Are Listed for Cheap

Facebook Marketplace can also be a popular spot for counterfeit items. Some of the common ones to be on the lookout for are Jordan sneakers and luxury handbags. To avoid being swindled, Marketplace recommends that you request a certificate of authenticity or proof of purchase for high-value items like watches, and luxury bags. Brand-name goods can also be used as a lure for other scams—demanding payment via link for example. “These scams draw people in by advertising hard-to-get and heavily discounted luxury items,” Lee says.

It’s a Long-Distance Deal

The beauty of Facebook Marketplace is that it’s intended to help you find items near you that you can pick up in person. Long-distance deals that require shipping can be dicey, says cybersecurity expert Maria Chamberlain, president of Acuity Total Solutions. After accepting payment, the seller might not send your item or send damaged or counterfeit goods instead. “Whenever possible, stick to local listings where you can inspect the product in person,” she advises.

A Killer Deal is Listed By a Seller With a New Account

A brand new account selling high-value items should raise red flags, Chamberlain says. Do a bit of sleuthing, she recommends. Check their profile, where you can see if you have friends in common, and get a good overview of their Facebook Marketplace activity including their other listings and ratings.

Also pay attention to the vibe you get during your interactions. “A seller rushing you to complete the transaction or acting overly pushy might not have the best intentions,” Chamberlain says. “Take your time, ask your questions, and be confident in your decision before proceeding.”

You’re Asked for a Deposit on an Apartment Sight Unseen

The rental market is hot and rent is rising in many places across the country, which has given way to a prolific scam in which fraudsters advertise flash deals on fake rentals—and require a deposit to hold the listing.

“As a landlord, we have had scam artists take our photos from legitimate advertisements and repost them as their own property for rent,” says Nick Disney, a real estate investor with Sell My San Antonio House. “They will often advertise the property for a much lower price to make people think that they are getting a great deal, and then they ask for a deposit to hold the property and ‘take it off the market.'”

If you are looking for a rental property on Facebook Marketplace, you should always ask for a tour of the inside of the house in person before providing any payments, Disney says. This is a strategy backed by Facebook, which cautions consumers to never send deposits for apartment rentals without having seen the apartment in real life. Doing so might leave you without an apartment, and minus your down payment.


Contributing Writer

Brittany Anas is a former newspaper reporter (The Denver Post, Boulder Daily Camera) turned freelance writer. Before she struck out on her own, she covered just about every beat—from higher education to crime. Now she writes about food, cocktails, travel, and lifestyle topics for Men’s Journal, House Beautiful, Forbes, Simplemost, Shondaland, Livability, Hearst newspapers, TripSavvy and more. In her free time, she coaches basketball, crashes pools, and loves hanging out with her rude-but-adorable Boston Terrier that never got the memo the breed is nicknamed “America’s gentleman.”

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