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The Top Facebook Marketplace Scams to Look Out For

Reels of another kind rack up the views online. Stories about Facebook Marketplace scams. 

Recently, TikTok’er Michel Janse (@michel.c.janse) got well over a million views with a most unusual story about selling furniture on Facebook Marketplace—and how it led to identity theft. 


oops dont fall for this scam like me

♬ original sound – Michel Janse

The story goes like this: 

A buyer reached out about the furniture Michel was selling, expressed interest, and then hesitated. Why the cold feet? The buyer wanted to speak to Michel on the phone to confirm that Michel was a real person. “Are you OK if I voice call you from Google?” Michel agreed, sent her number, and soon received a text with a Google Voice code. The buyer asked for the code, and as soon as Michel sent it, she got that sinking feeling. “I should have Googled before I did, because something feels really off.” 

As she found out, it was. The scammer ghosted the conversation and ran off with the verification code. 

This is a variation of the “Verification Code Scam,” where scammers ask you to send them that six-digit code you receive as part of an account login process. Here, scammers send a text message with a Google Voice verification code and ask you to send them that code. With it, they can create a Google Voice number linked to your phone number—and go on to commit other forms of identity theft in your name. 

It happens so often that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a page dedicated to the topic. Luckily, Michel got wise quickly enough. She quickly asked for another code and took back charge of that newly created Google Voice account. 

This is just one of the many scams lurking about on Facebook Marketplace. Largely, Facebook is a great place packed with lots of great deals, yet you can get stung. But if you know what to look out for, you can spot those scams and steer clear of them when you do. 

The top scams on Facebook Marketplace to look out for. 

As the saying goes, buyer beware. And seller too. Scammers weasel their way into both ends of a transaction. Per Facebook, in addition to phishing attacks, scams on Facebook Marketplace take three primary forms: 

A buyer scam is: When someone tries to buy or trade items from someone else without paying, resulting in a loss of money for the seller and a gain for the buyer. This might look like a buyer who: 

  • Reports their transaction as fraud after they receive the item(s) from you. 
  • Claims they never received the item(s) from you when they did. 
  • Doesn’t pay for an item that they received. 

An example, a scammer sends a seller a pre-paid shipping label to mail the item. Then they change the address via their tracking number and claim they never received the goods.  

A seller scam is: When someone tries to sell or trade items to someone else without delivering the items as promised, resulting in a gain of money for the seller and a loss for the buyer. This might look like a seller who: 

  • Purposely sends you something significantly different than what you paid for. Example: someone sells you a used item that they listed as “new” on Facebook Marketplace. 
  • Claims they shipped the item(s) to you when they didn’t. 
  • Asks you to send them money as a deposit for a high-value item without letting you confirm it’s real first. 

An example, a scammer offers up a game console—one that doesn’t work when you take it home and plug it in. 

A listing scam is: When a listing appears to be dishonest, fake, or lures buyers to complete transactions outside Facebook Marketplace. This might look like a listing: 

  • Of a product with a suspiciously low price on Facebook Marketplace. This can be a sign that it’s a fake item or listing. 
  • With a description encouraging buyers to reach out to the seller outside Marketplace. 

An example, you see a great price on a commuter bike, yet the seller wants to complete the transaction over text. And using a payment form not covered by Facebook’s purchase protection policies, such as Venmo or Zelle. 

Shopping safely and scam-free on Facebook Marketplace. 

Like any transaction you make through social media, a few extra steps and a dose of buyer or seller beware can help you make a great purchase or sale. One that’s safe. 

  • Check out the person’s profile: Michel mentioned getting a “vibe check” from her buyer by looking at their profile. Take it a step further and investigate closely. While not foolproof, it can help you spot an obvious fake account. Look for an account that’s only recently been created or that has next to no other activity. Those might be red flags. Also, try a reverse-image search of the person’s profile picture. Some scammers pull stock photos and other pictures off the internet to round out their bogus Facebook profiles. 
  • Consider doing your deals locally: Many of the scams listed above rely on items that are shipped. By shopping locally, you can inspect the item you’d like to purchase and get a sense if it’s a deal or not. For example, you could ask the seller to show that the game console you want to buy actually works. Likewise, you can avoid all manner of shipping-based scams on Facebook by conducting your transaction in person. 
  • Deal in public or with a pal: When selling or making a purchase, do it somewhere safe—one that’s well-lit and has some people around, if at all possible. Also, bring a friend and let others know where you’re going and what you’re doing. 
  • Stick with Facebook Marketplace: If you choose to purchase an item that’s shipped, conduct your transaction on Facebook. By using its approved payment methods, you can gain the purchase protections mentioned above. Don’t use online payment methods like Zelle or Venmo, which aren’t protected by Facebook currently. 
  • Document the transaction: Save any communications with your buyer or the seller in the event there is an issue. Keeping communications on Facebook provides an excellent record of your interactions in the event you end up getting scammed. 

Ugh! I got scammed on Facebook! Now what? 

You can take three big steps to help set things straight. 

  1. The first step involves filing a police report. That in itself might not resolve the issue, yet it’ll get you a case number that you can reference in your claims moving forward. It provides law enforcement with knowledge that a crime has taken place, along with important data and info that they can use moving forward. 
  2. Also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at Likewise, this provides the FTC with vital info that helps them track trends and that it can share with its law enforcement partners. For example, scammers often run in rings. Data can help identify and shut them down. 
  3. Next, report your scam to Facebook. Make your claim, provide your records, and see about getting a refund. Also notify Facebook of the scammer’s account so that they can take action against it as needed. Whether it’s a seller, buyer, or listing you want to report, Facebook has full instructions for reporting scams on its site. 

Stay safer still from scammers online. 

Whether shopping on Facebook Marketplace or off, a combination of online protection software and smart habits can help you avoid getting scammed. Further, online protection can provide you with yet more ways of preventing and recovering from identity theft. 

  • Use two-form authentication—and never share your number with anyone. Two-factor authentication makes it tougher to hack into an online account by using a six-digit code as part of the login process. Hackers know this and will try and hoodwink you into providing it. Just as Michel found out. Keep that number to yourself. Always. 
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card for purchases. When fraud occurs with a debit card, you fight to get your money back—it’s gone straight out of your account. With a credit card, the issuer fights to get their money back. They’re the ones who take the financial hit. Additionally, in the U.S., the Fair Credit Billing Act gives citizens the power to dispute charges over $50 for goods and services that were never delivered or otherwise billed incorrectly. Note that many credit card companies have their own policies that improve upon the Fair Credit Billing Act as well.  
  • Monitor your credit, transactions, and personal info online. That was once quite the task. Now, comprehensive online protection software like ours can do all that for you. And then some. It can prevent identity theft by cleaning up your personal info and old accounts online. It can notify you when unusual activity occurs in bank, credit, retirement, and other online accounts. If your info winds up on the dark web, it can alert you of that too, and offer next steps for action. And if you do end up as a victim of identity theft, a licensed restoration pro can help you recover—plus provide covers that can help recover your losses.  

Scams are crimes. And you can prevent them. 

We’d like to thank Michel and all the others who have shared their stories. Getting scammed stings. That’s why people often fail to report it, let alone share that it happened to them. Yet scams are crimes. Without question, act and report on a scam for the crime that it is. Get the proper platforms and authorities involved. 

Keep in mind the larger picture as well. Scams aren’t always one-offs. Organized crime gets in on scams as well, sometimes on a large scale. By acting and reporting on scams, you provide those platforms and authorities mentioned above with vital info that can help them shut it down. 

Your best defenses are your nose and your online protection software. As Michel said, something felt off in her interaction. So, if something doesn’t pass the sniff test, pay attention to that instinct. Shut down that purchase or sale on Facebook Marketplace—and report it if you think it’s a scam. You might save someone else some heartache down the road. 

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