Protecting Yourself When Selling or Buying on Facebook Marketplace


The old Latin saying “Caveat Emptor,†or buyer beware, is rapidly becoming seller beware, particularly for transactions on Facebook Marketplace. While online buying and selling platforms can help you reach a wider audience, they also can leave you vulnerable to unsavory predators looking to rip you off.

I recently avoided a scam when trying to sell a big-ticket item on Facebook Marketplace. After posting the ad, I was pleased to get immediate responses from interested “buyers.†However, while messaging one of these “buyers,†I became wary of their intentions for several reasons.

  • The “buyer†said he wanted to purchase the item sight unseen
  • He didn’t bargain for a better price
  • He said he would send me a check for the item’s price with additional funds for “movers†who would come to my house and move the item.
  • The “buyer’s†writing pattern wasn’t normal conversational English.

I desperately wanted to sell this item, so I gave the “buyer†my name and address so he could send me a check. Sure enough, the “buyer†texted me a legitimate USPS tracking number and date of arrival for the check.

I received a very official-looking check with a foil imprint and “original document†printed across the back of the check. Interestingly, the sender’s return address was in Los Angeles, and the check was from a “bank†in Georgia. These two anomalies further convinced me that the check was fake.

I took the check and the USPS mailing envelope to my bank and explained the situation to a personal banker before I endorsed or deposited the check. Sure enough, the check was fake; if I had deposited the money, the financial repercussions would have been dire.

Fraud Made Simple

The personal banker explained how this particular scam is perpetrated.

  • If the seller deposits the scam check, their bank credits the seller’s account.
  • The “buyer†will then contact the seller to release the extra funds for “movers.â€
  • By the time funds are sent to the “movers,†the seller’s bank will have determined that the check was a fraud.
  • The seller’s bank will withdraw funds from the seller’s existing bank account(s) to repay the fraudulent check. If the seller doesn’t have enough funds for repayment, the bank will set up repayment arrangements with the seller.

Though I was disappointed that the check was fake and that I didn’t sell my item, if I had deposited the check, I would likely have been scammed out of more than $10,000!

Scams on the Rise

According to Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford, IL, regional office of the Better Business Bureau, online shopping scams are increasing yearly. However, savvy shoppers can protect themselves by following a few simple guidelines when shopping on the web.

“Because we rely on the internet for everything from restaurant recommendations to buying cryptocurrency, protecting your information and being a well-informed consumer is the best way to avoid scams,†Horton said. “A few weeks ago, I saw an article that stated one in six people responding to a survey said they had been defrauded on Facebook Marketplace.â€

“The best advice I would give is to buy locally whenever possible,†Horton said. “Shopping at brick and mortar stores allows you to see the items you’re buying, and if there is an issue with an item after purchase, there’s recourse in getting your money back. When dealing with local merchants, you are protecting yourself from being defrauded.â€

If you prefer to shop online, Horton recommends using established websites like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Etsy. All of these websites have platforms allowing you to sell items.

How you pay for online purchases and receive funds for selling items online can also be tricky. “I recommend using PayPal for online transactions because the money is held in escrow,†he said. “If you are the buyer, PayPal acts as an intermediary to ensure that you are satisfied with your purchase. If you are the seller, the buyer doesn’t receive the product until the payment has cleared. Both buyer and seller are protected by using an escrow service.â€

Horton cautions against using wire transfers, like Venmo or Zelle, for online shopping. These apps transfer money immediately between bank accounts, leaving buyers and sellers with no recourse if a problem arises.

Online Shopping Woes

Other issues with online shopping, he said, include:

  • Receiving counterfeit designer items
  • Non-delivery of items
  • Receiving cheap, shoddy merchandise different than the quality item shown on a website

Horton encourages consumers to avoid using social media sites for shopping. “Be very careful on social media. There are ads for so many products on Facebook that it’s hard to tell what’s legitimate and what’s a scam,†he said. “Ads that pop up on Facebook may offer a great deal on a product, but the ad and product could be fake.â€

“If you are considering purchasing an item from a Facebook ad, don’t click on the ad’s link in Facebook. It’s a better idea to Google the website for the product, so you can determine if the company and merchandise are legitimate,†Horton said. “If there have been issues with the company and its products, there will most likely be reviews and complaints from other consumers.â€

“Using social media sites for online shopping puts you at risk of being defrauded,†Horton added. “Identity theft is a significant consumer issue. Scammers are after two things, your money and your information. So never provide any personal or financial information to a pop-up ad on social media. Scammers will take this information, sell it to other scammers on the dark web, and now your personal information is open to a continuing barrage of rip-off attempts.â€

While online shopping can yield good deals on legitimate products, caution and wisdom are crucial in protecting your money and identity. While conducting internet commerce or using Facebook Marketplace, consumers should remember this sage advice, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!â€

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Lynne Conner is a freelance photojournalist with 30+ years of experience. She has won several regional and national awards for her work and loves writing about lifestyle, business, parenting, finances, health, religion and technology.  Her blog can be found at www.lynnelovesthepast.blog and she is currently working on her first book.