6 tips for avoiding scams on Facebook Marketplace

Here are some ways to protect yourself as a seller or as a buyer on Facebook Marketplace.

Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
3 min read

The Facebook Marketplace is a great way to get rid of your old junk and make a few bucks or to pick up awesome finds at discounted prices. Unfortunately, there are people out there ready and willing to cheat and rob you. There are also people who love to cause drama and will try to ruin your good name as a seller. Here are a few ways to protect yourself.

Meet up the safe way

Never meet to exchange goods at someone's house. Do you want to get robbed? Because that's how you get robbed. Always meet in a public place and bring a friend or two along, just to be on the safe side.

Many police stations have "exchange spots" in their parking lots, so people can meet up safely. Even if your's doesn't have a designated exchange area, meeting in the parking lot of your police station, in clear view of security cameras, is the safest way to meet a stranger.

Always exchange at the same time

Never give someone an item and allow them to make payments. Exchanging the money and the item at the same time is always your best bet.

Pro tip: If they say they'll pay you when they get their tax return, they'll probably never pay you.

Try before you buy

I'm not talking about trying the item that's for sale. I'm talking about the seller. Before posting that you want an item, click on the person's profile and look for the telltale signs of a scammer.

Here's what to look for:

  • Does the person live in your area? If they are on a local sale page but don't live near you, that's a red flag.
  • Do they have a lot of friends or just a few? Scammers tend to have either just a few friends, or a lot of friends with names that sound made-up.
  • Do a quick reverse image search on their profile picture. If it comes up as someone else, you know you're dealing with a scammer.
  • No personal picture is a bad sign, too. If their profile picture is of a car, flower or some other inanimate object, be wary, especially if they exhibit other signs of a scammer.
  • Spammy links-- like links to porn sites or weight loss pill sites-- in their public posts are another warning sign.

Research your item

Before you sell and before you buy, always do your research. See what the item is selling for new.

If you're buying, ask how old the item is and if there are any defects. Then compare the offering price to the price you would pay at a store. If it just doesn't seem like a good deal, then pass.

Sellers, you should list your price appropriately. If the item is brand new, still in the box, discount it a few dollars. The older it is and the more damage it has, the more you should discount the price. A good way to give the fairest price is by checking around the Marketplace. Take note of what other sellers are pricing similar items for and get as close as you can to those prices in your listing.

Pricing poorly can lead to angry comments at best and ruin your reputation as a seller at the worst. Some people actively hunt down posts by sellers they don't like and try to sabotage sales. So, it's best to stay on people's good sides by being fair and honest.

Show proof

This tip is from a hardcore Marketplace buyer and seller: show potential customers proof. Don't just snap a photo of the item. Go the extra mile. A picture of receipts, labels and appraisal letters will help you get top dollar for your item.

For example, if you're selling a vintage Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, then you should include a photo of the dress's label in your post. People need proof. Without it, buyers may think you're sketchy and lowball your price.

Don't deal with a wishy-washy seller

People are notorious for changing their minds when selling stuff on Facebook. They'll tell you one price in their post, but when you message them, they up the price. Then they won't message you for a few days, and then raise the price again.

As soon as someone starts showing their flaky side, back out. These people aren't worth the drama. After all that talk, you may never get your hands on the item, even if you agree to the inflated price.