Reghan Winkler: Protect yourself on Facebook Marketplace

Shopping is one of my favorite pastimes. I love finding a good deal and saving money, which is why I often find myself browsing the Facebook Marketplace. The platform offers a wide variety of goods for sale, with some listings coming from legitimate businesses and others from individuals.

However, it’s important to remember that Facebook Marketplace is open to anyone, including scammers. Fraudulent activities such as falsely advertising items at low prices and requesting payment before the item is shipped or received have become all too common.

Whether you’re a buyer or seller, here are a few tips to keep in mind when using the Facebook Marketplace.

As a Buyer:

· Be wary of sellers who change the price of items once you have inquired about them. This is a tactic known as “bait and switch,” where a scammer tempts you with a low-priced item and then tries to sell you a more expensive product or the same product at a higher price. If you notice inconsistent pricing, it’s best to keep shopping and protect your money

· Avoid marketplace giveaways for high-ticket items and fake investment opportunities. Scammers will often send links to interested buyers that are designed to capture personal information or download malware onto your devises. These malicious programs give scammers access to your personal devices, such as your bank account and passwords.

· Be on the lookout for newly created profiles and accounts not connected to a business. Accounts that have spelling and grammar mistakes and requests for personal information up front are likely connected to a scammer.

· Be cautious of requests to send a deposit to “hold” an item. Scammers may tell multiple people the same thing, collecting deposits and stringing you along until someone catches on. When possible, pick up items in person and pay in cash.

As a Seller:

· Avoid buyers who can only pay using Zelle, Venmo, Cash App, and wire transfers. Scammers often use a stolen credit card to create fake accounts and the payment is likely to get reversed, leaving you to pay off the debts. Always receive payments through approved Facebook Marketplace payment methods, such as cash, PayPal, or Facebook Checkout.

· Never let buyers send you a prepaid shipping address label. Scammers will claim that they have a preferred shipping method and will pay for shipping. This scam allows the buyer to change the shipping destination once it is shipped, leaving you with no record of the tracking information and no way to see if they received it. This allows the buyer to file a fake claim to get a refund on the product and leave you without your product and the money.

· Never send buyers a “verification code” to prove you’re not a scammer. This scam allows fake buyers to take over your Google Voice account if they receive the code. A Google Voice account is linked to your phone number letting scammers use it to hide their identity while connecting to your personal data. Verification codes should never be shared with anyone and should only be used by you when logging into accounts.

Scammers are everywhere, and they use fake accounts, spoofed websites and other tactics to trick unsuspecting users. If you suspect a scam, you should stop communicating with the buyer or seller and report the suspected scam to Facebook directly.

Stay safe, be smart, and don’t let scammers take advantage of you on Facebook Marketplace.

Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at