How to spot the red flags for this latest Facebook Marketplace scam

How to spot the red flags for this latest Facebook Marketplace scam

Careful not to fall for these common tricks from cybercriminals

by Kurt Knutsson

We recently received this message from one of our readers, Mike D. of Conover, North Carolina, about some Facebook Marketplace scams he says he’s encountered and wants to let others know about them. Here’s what he has to say.

Hey Kurt:
I have busted a few FB Marketplace scams over the last few years. We were looking for a boat a few years ago. We did finally buy one but before we did, I ran across a very nice pontoon boat that was way underpriced.


The “lady’s” story was that her husband had died and she was moving to another state to live with her inlaws or parents. So when I contacted her I received an email saying that I would get an email for payment from Ebay because she had already moved.


Of course, red flags went up. But then after researching, apparently Ebay will do certain fulfillment exercises. When I got the email, of course, they wanted payment via eBay gift card, Walmart gift card, etc. The 2nd clincher was that I found the same boat with the same story in Hickory, NC, Raleigh NC, and somewhere in SC. Hmmm… I think they are counting that most people won’t look more than 50 miles away.


Since then I’ve caught a few people doing this with boats, jeeps, p/u trucks, etc. Do an image search and when you see the same image come up in different cities, sometimes multiple states, you have a scammer. I report them and sometimes I’ll even engage them to tell them what lowlifes they are. –  Mike D., Conover, NC

We appreciate Mike telling us about these red flags. Since so many scams happen on Facebook Marketplace, it’s always a good idea to keep a watchful eye out and report any post that looks suspicious, even if you’re not dealing with the person directly. 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 proving that someone could be a scammer is if they don’t have many friends, pictures, or posts on their profile page. You should also check to see if this person has recently joined Facebook or if they’ve been on the platform for a while. The longer the profile has been up and the more posts the person has, the more likely it is to be a real person and not a scammer.

Additionally, look for any unusual or inconsistent information in their profile, 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 transactions with them. You should pretty much be able to get a sense of who this person is from their profile before you agree to sell or buy anything from them.


2) Asked to pay in the form of a gift card

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


Why a scammer asks you to pay with a gift card

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 then later find out that it’s a scam, it is nearly impossible for a bank or credit card company to help you get that money back.

At least with a debit or credit card, the bank or credit card company can trace where that fraudulent payment was made and help reimburse you for the money. However, the same cannot be done with a gift card.

It’s basically like giving free money to a complete stranger. Anyone who demands you be paid with a gift card is a scammer. Now, besides paying in the form of gift cards, these are some other red flags you can watch out for on Facebook Marketplace.


3) Multiple posts of the same item

This is another major red flag. A scammer will often get their hands on one item and try to make numerous ads about it in different parts of the country. This has been common with fake rental ads for apartments and homes as well.

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

Because many people have a distance limit for how far they’re willing to shop around for an item, many won’t think to check if the same item is for sale in another part of the country. Try broadening your search when you find an item you want to buy and see if you notice any repeats of the same item. If you’re seeing the same story in another location, then the item for sale is likely a scam, and you should report it to Facebook.




4) Some of the manipulative tactics scammers use

Gaining people’s sympathy and trust: Oftentimes, scammers will try to disguise themselves as innocent and even helpless person to gain people’s sympathy and trust. They might have their profile pictures be of an elderly woman or a mother with a child, and in Mike’s case, they may even throw in a sob story like “My husband died, and now I have to sell this item.”

Evoking trust and lowering suspicion: By portraying themselves as innocent and vulnerable individuals, scammers aim to disarm you emotionally. When someone appears to be in distress or facing a challenging situation, our natural inclination is to help and support them. This sympathetic response can lower your guard and make you more susceptible to the scammer’s ploy.

Creating a sense of urgency: Sob stories involving tragedy or hardship often come with a sense of urgency. The scammer might claim that they need to sell the item quickly due to financial difficulties or impending relocation. This urgency can prompt you to make rushed decisions without properly verifying the authenticity of the situation or the legitimacy of the offer.

Obtaining personal information: Appearing sympathetic and trustworthy is an effective way for scammers to coax you into revealing personal information. The more emotionally invested you become in helping the scammer, the more likely you are to share sensitive details, which can later be used for identity theft or other fraudulent purposes.

Guilt-tripping and emotional manipulation: Some scammers go beyond just seeking sympathy; they resort to guilt-tripping and emotional manipulation to extract money or favors from their victims. They may guilt-trip you into feeling responsible for their predicament or persuade them that their assistance will bring significant positive change to their lives.

Avoiding suspicion and consequences: By disguising themselves as seemingly innocent individuals facing hardship, scammers hope to evade suspicion and reduce the likelihood of facing legal consequences for their fraudulent activities. Law enforcement and victims alike might be less inclined to suspect wrongdoing when presented with a heartrending story.

Of course, in the end, there is always the possibility that the person selling the item has gone through a real tragedy; however, you should trust your gut and just be careful that they’re not trying to trick you into feeling sorry for them.






Staying safe on Facebook Marketplace: tips for buyers and sellers

Avoid sharing personal information 

You should keep your discussions about any items you’re selling or buying on Facebook Marketplace strictly on Facebook and Facebook Messenger. Avoid handing over your phone number, email address, or any other personal information to a person you’re conversing with.

Meet in public places

When it comes to getting your item to the potential buyer or receiving an item from a potential seller, see if you can meet up in a neutral, public place so that you can avoid any potential risks associated with meeting strangers in unfamiliar or private locations. Public places such as coffee shops, shopping centers, or community centers are ideal choices for these transactions, as they provide a safe and visible environment.

Secure a reputable shipping service or delivery

If meeting in person is not 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 item’s condition, price, and any agreed-upon terms, before finalizing the deal.

Trust your instincts

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


Report Marketplace scams to Facebook

Facebook has a Help Center page dedicated to Recognizing Scams on Facebook Marketplace. The page provides information on what scams are, how to recognize them, and what to do if you encounter one.






Kurt’s key takeaways

Facebook Marketplace is known to have a big problem with scammers, and although it’s still a great and convenient tool to use for buying and selling items, just keep your wits about yourself and don’t be so quick to trust people.

Remember, you will likely be encountering people whom you’ve never met before, so remember to read everything carefully and never share any personal information that isn’t necessary to the sale.

Have you seen any suspicious Facebook Marketplace ads before now? Have you ever been scammed online? Let us know by commenting below.








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SANDRA Brown July 26, 2023 - 5:49 am

My husband and I, bought the Keto ACV Gummies, being touted by the Sharks, from TV fame. This ad was showing a thin Paula Dean. We bought the buy 3 get 2 free deal. Supposed to cost $129.21. Instead we were billed$198.76. I called the number associated with the purchase on my credit card report. They returned $69.57 to my account. I also told the oriental woman , they weren’t working? She told me to continue taking them & call back when using last bottle, if I still didn’t see any results? I called a couple of days ago, the first woman, when I said I wanted my money back, put me on hold, she never returned! I called my credit card company and the man there, ended up connecting me back with the company, he disappeared, a new young woman listened to me, said she would get management & hung up on me. I called Chase credit card again, this time a lady was very helpful, I gave her all of the information again, she said they would return my money, it might take a little while. Then they would look into the company and try to get their money back? This is a huge rip off, constantly on Facebook. Please tell people about it, it’s a scam and the gummies are useless! Thank you for reading this.

Richard July 26, 2023 - 6:10 am

I’ve also discovered a scam on Marketplace. I placed an ad to sell some furniture. Right away I was contacted by someone who wanted to buy using Zelle. I’ve never used Zelle before so I thought I’d try it. I gave my email address and about an hour later I received an email saying the transaction couldn’t go through because my account wasn’t a business account. The email was forwarded from the buyer. The email stated to convert my account the buyer would need to send me $600 (the furniture was priced at $300) and I would need to return the overpayment. I immediately recognized a scam and notified the buyer I wasn’t gonna do it. He told me he already sent the money. Checking my bank account, no such transaction happened. He stated earlier his son would be picking up the furniture. When I looked at his Facebook account, he appeared to be in his 20’s. He couldn’t possibly have a son old enough to drive. Beware!

Harvey Griffin July 26, 2023 - 11:49 am

Many suspicious Facebook Marketplace ads for sell new electric bikes for about $50 to $150 these bikes sell in stores for $500 to $3000, 90% of them live in other country reported to marketplace many times but nothing changed.

Sylvie Iellamo July 29, 2023 - 5:32 am

Is TEMU a safe site to buy from?

Kurt Knutsson September 27, 2023 - 7:17 pm

Hi Sylvie, we would be cautious. Please refer to our article here for further information.

Dwayne L. March 31, 2024 - 9:02 am

If you click on the seller details on FB Marketplace. You can see everything they have for sale. Easy to tell it’s a scam when you see the same boat, truck, etc. for sale all over the country. Especially when it is a too good to be true deal.

Susan S. April 1, 2024 - 5:17 am

Yes….approx 7 months ago I was lured into a supposed government loan. I’m on a fixed income and needed the loan for different things. The woman used false advertising and straight lies to get me to purchase an apple gift card for 200 dollars. My very own cousin connected me with her! He had gotten a loan through this scammer, supposedly….I think he was part of it. After I sent the gift card she informed me that I must pay the taxes on this fake loan of 2000 dollars!! I saved all texts and Facebook messages with my cousin and his partner in crime!! They need to go to jail and be charged with a possible federal crime for using the governments name to perform their scam’s. I knew BETTER, I just didn’t do better!!! Lesson learned. P S. They are good at what they do to reel me in… JAIL I’M HOPING!!


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