Social Media Marketplace Scams: How to Spot & Avoid Fake Listings

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Social media marketplaces have become increasingly popular in recent years, as they offer a convenient way to buy and sell goods and services. In fact, Facebook Marketplace passed a whopping one billion global users in 2021. However, this popularity also has also attracted the attention of scammers, who are using these platforms to prey on unsuspecting users and commit fraud. While there are many benefits to using social media marketplaces, you must stay alert when shopping and know how to spot fake or suspicious listings. Here are some of the most common social media marketplace scams and tips on how to avoid them.

Fake Listings

Scammers will often create fake listings of high-value items, such as electronics or furniture, and then offer them for sale at a fraction of their retail price. Once the victim pays for the item, the scammer will either disappear or send them a counterfeit product.

How to avoid:

When shopping on social media, such as Facebook Marketplace or Instagram, always use your best judgement and be wary of extremely low prices. Remember if something seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

Overpayment Scams

Buyers aren’t the only people who can get scammed on social media, sellers are at risk as well. With overpayment scams, the scammer will offer to pay more for the item’s asking price. They will then ask the victim to send them the difference back, either through a wire transfer or a gift card. But of course, there was no original payment, and now the buyer is down the refund amount and the scammer will disappear.

How to avoid:

When someone offers to pay more than your asking price, be hesitant to accept. Remember normal buyers are looking for deals on social media and wouldn’t want to pay more for your product if they don’t have to. If a buyer offers a higher price, ask questions. If they can’t give straight answers, it’s most likely a scam.

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Scammers often try to facilitate a “bargain” by advertising a high-quality product with a very low-price tag. When a buyer attempts to purchase the item, it either appears gone and they will be offered a similar item for a much steeper price or will be sent an inferior item that was not the advertised product.

How to avoid:

Once again, using your common sense is the best way to avoid the bait and switch. You can also insist on meeting in person to conduct the sale, this will ensure that you are actually getting the item that you are paying for.

Shipping Scams

Scammers sometimes offer to ship an item to the victim, but they will either send a fake tracking number or no tracking number at all. The victim will then be left waiting for the item to arrive, which never does. Once the money is collected by the scammer, they will disappear off the platform and the victim will no longer be able to contact them.

How to avoid:

Before you buy anything on a social media marketplace, take some time to research the seller. Look at their profile, read their reviews, and check to see if they have a history of selling similar items. You can also once again insist on meeting in person to conduct the sale.

Personal Information Scams

Scammers may also try to collect personal information from victims, such as their names, addresses, and phone numbers when appearing to “sell” an item on social media. This information can then be used to commit identity theft, bank fraud or other crimes.

How to avoid:

Never give out your private information to someone you don’t know, especially over the internet. A seller does not need to know your social security number, bank account number, or any other sensitive information to sell you a product. If you are being asked to give that info by a seller or buyer, you should report them immediately and cease all communication.

Shopping on social media marketplaces, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, is a great way to find deals, make money, or run an ecommerce business. However, being aware of the typical scams that are used on these platforms will make using them much safer. If you are a Citadel member and think that you may have been scammed on a social media marketplace, contact us immediately so we can try to help get your money back. Also, be sure to regularly check our Security Center for the latest scam information.

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