Facebook Marketplace is an attractive alternative to yard sales and flea markets if you’re looking for holiday gift deals or considering selling some of your old belongings to fund a purchasing spree.
As with any other online or offline exchange, the Marketplace attracts its fair share of con artists and fraudsters. Therefore, here are some guidelines for making Facebook’s Marketplace a source of joy rather than deceit.
What is Facebook Marketplace?
Facebook launched Marketplace in October 2016, and by May 2017, more than 18 million objects had been listed for sale in the United States alone. Since then, the service has expanded to other countries, and Facebook reports that search volume in the Marketplace tab has tripled globally since the beginning of 2017, with more than 550 million people actively participating in purchase and sell groups every month.
Using information from your profile to determine your location, Facebook displays a variety of items for sale in your area and also allows you to submit your own items for sale. When a buyer discovers an item they are interested in purchasing, they contact the vendor via Facebook Messenger to finalize the transaction. Messenger allows traders to conduct commerce without exchanging phone numbers or addresses, and Facebook does not charge for the service.
Utilization of the Site is simple. Click the Marketplace icon at the bottom of the Facebook mobile application or in the left column of your homepage. You will see a variety of photographs of items for sale, along with their prices. Use the filters to narrow your search by product category, price, etc. To sell an item, select the blue “Sell Something” button and complete the form. The smartphone app for selling can save you time by allowing you to snap a photo of your item and affix it to the listing without having to save or upload the image.
Be Smart in the Marketplace
Here are five suggestions for ensuring your Facebook Marketplace experience is a good and secure one:
- Use a credit card or secure electronic payment service for all transactions. You must make payment arrangements directly with the other party in a transaction because the Marketplace lacks an integrated payment system. Unscrupulous sellers may demand cash, gift cards, or other untraceable payment methods, and unscrupulous purchasers may offer worthless gift cards. Card issuers and payment processors such as PayPal — but not its sibling app Venmo — will investigate fraud claims on your behalf as a buyer, and they also provide sellers with enhanced transaction security. Legitimate buyers and sellers will profit from the use of secure services, which will be welcomed by reputable marketplace traders.
- Avoid transactions that don’t involve local buyers/sellers. Theoretically, Facebook will only show you potential buyers and merchants in your immediate vicinity. (You can select a radius as tiny as two miles or as large as 100 miles, but 40 miles is the default.) If a vendor informs you that an item will be shipped from a greater distance, there is a chance that the order will not arrive or will not be as described. Consider avoiding a buyer who requests that you ship an item long distance, notably internationally. The fraud occurs when the customer cancels payment after the item has been shipped and is no longer retrievable.
- Check out buyer/seller profiles. When you click on an item that’s offered for sale, check the seller’s profile under “seller information.” Make sure they’re located in your area and check Facebook to see if you have mutual friends. If they’ve only been on Facebook for a short time, or if they have very few friends, that could be a warning sign. Also, search on their name in Facebook; if you see more than one profile using the same name and photo, that should raise a red flag.
- Inspect before making payment. If you’re purchasing an item, make sure you can “see the goods” before you authorize payment. If the item is jewelry or collectible, bring along an expert who can verify its value. If it’s electronic, plug it in or add batteries to make sure it works.
- Meet the buyer/seller in a public place. Some police departments permit individuals to finalize transactions in their station lobbies or parking lots; if not, choose a public location such as a coffee shop or restaurant. Bring a friend, and if you feel uneasy, record a video or take a few photos of the exchange so that you can readily identify the other party in the event of a dispute.
When something’s not right
When you do business over Facebook Marketplace, you’re no more (or less) likely to run into shady characters than you are in the real world, or when you purchase and sell items over services such as eBay and Craigslist. Maintain vigilance and leave if something feels off.
You can and should take action if you nevertheless become a victim of a scam:
- If you suspect a Facebook Marketplace scammer, report them to Facebook.
- Notify law enforcement if you believe you have been defrauded. Inform the local authorities and contemplate filing a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) of the FBI. The FBI does not guarantee to follow up on every case, but registering schemes helps reveal fraud trends and patterns that can be used to combat cybercriminals.
Facebook Marketplace can be a fun, vibrant source of deals. If you’re as vigilant for potential fraud as you are for bargains, you’re likely to have a good Marketplace experience. Happy shopping!