Facebook Marketplace surpassed one billion global users last year. With this, it has become a giant of space consumer to consumer, which allows users to buy and sell with each other seamlessly. It also makes users search for listings from their local area, which makes picking up a lot easier. And since people can view seller profiles, they feel safer on the site. However, this is often a false sense of security, according to ESET.
A recent survey revealed that one in six (17%) users had been scammed on Facebook Marketplace. Of course, much of the trading in this “classified ads section” Facebook is legitimate, but like any other online marketplace, it also attracts many cybercriminals.
It is not surprising, then, that the social network has difficulties to stop scammers, as it sometimes too zealously blocks legitimate users and inadvertently allows scams to slip through a combination of automated checks and human reviewers. With fake listings extending to apartment sales and car purchases, the stakes are high.
This makes users feel even more pressured to understand the typical tricks scammers use and what you can do to stay safe. ESET outlines the top eight scams to watch out for on Facebook Marketplace and how to spot the warning signs:
Sellers may advertise a product that appears to be fine in the photograph they have posted. But once delivered, or when they receive it at home, it turns out to be broken. It’s especially tricky when you’re buying electronics, because you can’t usually check every feature before handing over the money. This action is just as likely to be done by an unscrupulous seller as it is by a professional scammer.
Counterfeit Items: If it’s not broken, it may be a fake product.
The brand name clothing, perfumes, jewelry and cosmetics are especially common targets for counterfeits. Just like defective item scams, it’s hard to tell if they’re genuine or not just from a little photo. Everyone is looking for a bargain. But when offers seem too good to be true, you have to be wary.
Google Voice scams
Facebook Marketplace is also used to take advantage of other types of fraud, potentially on other platforms. For example, the scammer agrees to buy an item. But then, after taking the conversation to an unmonitored platform like WhatsApp, it asks the seller to authenticate with a verification code.
In reality, the code sent to the seller’s phone is a two-factor authentication code sent by Google Voice and initiated by the scammer. At this point they are able to create an account using the seller’s phone number, which can be used in other scams. With more information they could still try to open other accounts in your name or access existing ones.
Sellers can also be scammed by scammers on Facebook Marketplace. In a classic example, they claim to have overpaid for an item you’re selling and post a screenshot apparently showing the transaction. They will ask for the difference to be returned. But, of course, there has been no original payment, and therefore you are left without the refund amount.
Non-delivery (advance rate)
A classic trick is to sell an item and collect the money, but never give it to the buyer. This obviously only applies to items shipped from outside the buyer’s local area.
One way to get that extra information is to spam them with gift offers through the Facebook Marketplace. By simply clicking on a link and filling in some personal information, the victim believes that they will be able to acquire some free luxury items, cryptocurrencies, or other special offers. Of course, scammers only want your personal information to commit further fraud or identity theft.
Sellers with expensive items listed on Facebook Marketplace can also be targeted by fraudulent buyers. The latter agree to pay the shipping costs and send a false invoice to “prove” that they have done so. There’s only one catch, they need the seller to pay a small insurance fee. It may be a relatively small amount compared to the item for sale, which may convince the seller to go ahead.
The hook and the change
Scammers advertise what is often a high-quality product at a very tempting price. When you want to take advantage of the “bargain”, that product “disappears” and you are offered a similar item for a much higher price or a lower alternative.