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Facebook Scams

25th October 2023

By Karina Nowicka

Facebook Marketplace

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Whenever you’re using Facebook marketplace to make a purchase or to sell an item, you need to be very careful. Of course, marketplace doesn’t give you the same levels of protection as Amazon, eBay or even Gumtree. Marketplace is one of the many apps where individuals get the benefit of selling without having to pay any fees. 

It allows the buyer and the seller to contact each other and arrange a viewing of the item before making the purchase. The payments are usually made through cash, but can be made through bank transfer. Some people also use it to swap for other items, or to simply donate them if they need to get rid of something fast, for example. 

Golden Rules.

  • Pay face to face where possible – on collection
  • Avoid online ordering / payment – do you know who you are giving your details to?
  • “Too good to be true” prices are a red flag – especially on new items. Don’t get suckered

Whilst marketplace is typically a safe place, it’s still recommended to be very cautious. Facebook scammers using fake profiles are getting more and more common. They are usually pretending to sell items whilst their true intent is to steal your money and/or get access to your personal details. 

What to do to avoid getting scammed?

Unfortunately, scammers are getting better and better, so it’s not as easy to spot a fake profile. However, there are a few rules you can follow when buying second hand items online.

Look at the profile – whether it’s the buyer or the seller. Do they look real? 

You can usually spot when an account is fake quite quickly. For example, fake accounts may not have a profile picture. And if they do, it can be a picture of a celebrity, an image with no person in it or even a heavily photoshopped picture of themselves (yes, it happens). Look through their profile pictures and cover photos to make sure the person seems real.

When was their profile picture last updated? 

Typically, a real person will update their profile picture every once in a while. This can be once every few months. If the profile you are buying from or selling to has had the same profile picture since the creation of the profile, it may be suspicious. Especially if their profile picture is not of them.

When was their account created?

A lot of the time a scammer will create a fake profile in order to try and sell items straight away. If you look at the seller’s account and it was created very recently, this can be considered a red flag. This could mean that the account was created intentionally to “sell” items and scam people.

Do they have a lot of friends?

You might notice that accounts of real people do not have thousands of Facebook friends. Whereas, scam accounts will typically spam random people with friend requests, and usually add the most random accounts from all over the world. Skim read through their friends list if it’s public and have a look if the people look genuine.

If their list of friends is full of people from all over the world, it could be a scam. Normally, real people will only have friends on Facebook that they know. So this means, people from the same area or country that they are in.

Do they actually use Facebook?

Of course, not everyone who has Facebook will use it everyday. They may not even use it once a week or once a month. That’s why it’s quite hard to tell whether the account is genuine or not. Have a skip through their timeline and posts. If there are little to no posts, it may not be safe to purchase from them. 

If they do have posts however, that look spammy or as if they are advertising some kind of product or company, it is suspicious. Again, this is a hard way to tell if the account is real since not everybody likes to post on Facebook. But, it’s always best to check.

Is their information genuine?

Look at their “about” information that is displayed on their profile. Typically, fake accounts will have basic information put down such as “lives in California” – “Studied at Harvard University” – “works at Facebook” etc. Of course, again, this doesn’t always mean the account is fake. Check if they have a relationship status. Are they married to someone? Who is it and does their profile look real?

Have a good skim read through their information. You should notice that real profiles actually have a lot more sections about themselves filled out. Usually, you may also view their email. Does it match their account name? Does that look real? There are many things to take into consideration.

Do the photos look real?

As stated above, typically, fake accounts won’t use real images. They may use pictures from the internet of celebrities, objects or quotes. It doesn’t instantly mean the account is fake, but that’s when you check the rest of their account. 

Normally, people will have a picture of themselves as their profile picture that they possibly took on their mobile phone which means it may not be the best quality. Check if the profile picture is of them. If it is a model, with perfect lightning and editing, it may not really be them. You can always check the source of the picture via google. That way you can be sure if it’s really their picture or if they stole it from a random website. 

Again, with modern phones, cameras and editing apps, people’s pictures can be much higher quality. If you can, try going through their profile pictures. If all the pictures look like the same person it can be real. It could, however, be a person pretending to be someone they’re not. Using all of the tips listed above you may be able to recognise if the account is fake or real. Scammers have improved their tactics and can make fake profiles look very believable so it’s always a risk.

Payment method

Beware of any sellers on Facebook marketplace asking you to make payments through an online portal or unknown websites. Typically, marketplace is cash only and you pay upon collecting the item. If the seller asks you to make any payments BEFORE you collect/get the item delivered to you, whether it’s bank transfer or through any unknown methods, you are putting yourself at risk.

This is especially the case if you’re using a method you’ve never used before that requires your personal or credit card information. This is how scammers get access to your information. You may innocently put down your card details to make a payment, but you are actually sending your details to a scammer that can take all of your savings.

Does the seller seem legitimate?

If the seller is not a legitimate company then how do you know that you will ever receive the item you’ve ordered? 

Try searching up the company, it may not even exist. Does it have a website? Are there any reviews? You should always read them before making a purchase, especially if it’s a pricey product. 

Any purchase you make through marketplace where you pay before delivery and inspection is a huge risk. Is the item damaged or faulty? What if it comes looking nothing like it’s pictures? Many important things to ask yourself. Always trust your gut, and walk away if the account looks not trustworthy.

What to do if the item never arrives

If you order from a seller that is unable to deliver your item and you are unable to collect it yourself they may have sent it through a private courier service. Facebook Purchase Protection Policies state that you must wait 2 days after the last estimated delivery date before filing a claim. 

You must confront the seller first and ask for a refund if the item is still not there. If the seller does not respond or refuses to give a refund only then can you go forward with filing a claim. In some cases, Facebook may offer a partial refund, however this option is currently only available in Thailand.

Item received damaged or not as described

Whether the item was damaged during delivery, has missing parts or in much worse condition than described, it is the seller’s responsibility to either give a partial refund or give you your money back in full. 

Unresponsive sellers are not following the Return Policy and thus Facebook may offer a Purchase Protection refund upon showing evidence.

For more information visit Facebook’s Purchase Protection Policies.

Facebook Buy and Sell Groups

An alternative to marketplace is Facebook’s buy and sell groups. These are usually closed groups managed and monitored by their admins. The admins are usually the creators of the groups and people they have selected to help manage them. They can usually be safer, since admins have to approve members to join and approve their posts before they are published. These groups can be made for specific people, communities, cities or areas. Facebook groups can be made for everything, to bring people with the same interests together.

There are many reasons why people would rather use buy and sell groups:

  • They are usually limited to certain categories. It helps sellers and buyers reach better target audiences/products within their chosen areas. Since they are a lot more specific, it gives everyone an easier browsing experience.
  • As mentioned earlier, these groups are usually closed, which means they require a membership. There are usually some terms and conditions you must accept before an admin will accept your request. This makes it a lot easier since scammers and spam content will get removed fast, making it safer for users.
  • There will always be a buy and sell group made for your specific area. This means there will be people in your local area willing to buy from you or to sell. A lot of the time, you can even arrange same day delivery/pickup. This is why people enjoy these enclosed community groups.

Fake Facebook profiles

There are many unexplainable reasons for why people would want to set up a fake account. They could be using a fake name to pretend to be someone they’re not. They may also use images from the internet or somebody else’s private photos. This is a criminal offence and if you spot anyone doing this, report it immediately. 

Fake accounts will often use a fake name. It allows them to be used as a tool to stalk and/or bully other users without people knowing who is behind the screen. Sometimes blocking someone like this is not enough as unfortunately, as long as they create a new email or use a different mobile number they have access to creating unlimited fake accounts. Of course, Facebook has a no harassment policy, so reporting the account is advised.

The best thing to do in this scenario is to keep your account fully private and not share any personal data online. If you do come across these accounts always make sure to report them to Facebook and they should be taken down.

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