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Five (5) Ways To Securely Buy And Sell On The Facebook Marketplace

The Facebook Marketplace is an enticing alternative to yard sales and flea markets if you’re looking for holiday-gift bargains or even considering selling some of your old stuff to finance a shopping spree.

The Marketplace attracts its share of swindlers and scammers, like every other online exchange (and others in the real world as well). So here are few tips to make the Marketplace on Facebook a source of cheer, not cheats.

What is Facebook Marketplace?

In October 2016, Facebook launched the Marketplace, and more than 18 million products were listed for sale in the U.S. alone by May 2017. Since then, the service has expanded to other countries, and Facebook estimates that since the beginning of 2017, the Marketplace tab’s search volume has increased three times globally, with more than 550 million individuals participating every month in buying and selling groups.

The idea is relatively simple: Facebook shows you an assortment of items for sale in your region using information from your profile to decide your position and allows you to list your products for sale as well. They contact the seller via Facebook Messenger and plan to close the deal when a buyer spots an item they want to purchase. Messenger usage implies that traders can do business without sharing addresses or phone numbers, and Facebook pays no service fees.

Marketplace use is simple. At the bottom of the Facebook mobile app, or in the left column of your Facebook homepage, press the Marketplace icon. A selection of images of items for sale will be shown, with prices attached. To narrow the search by item type, price, etc., browse or use the filters. Click the blue ‘Sell Something’ button and fill in the form if you have an item to sell. By allowing you to snap a picture of your item and connect it to the listing without saving and uploading images, selling through the mobile application will save you time.

Be Smart in the Marketplace

Here are five suggestions to ensure that your experience of the Facebook Marketplace is a successful and safe one:

  1. Use a credit card or secure electronic payment service for all transactions: There is no built-in payment system in the Marketplace, so you have to arrange payments directly with the other party in a transaction. Cash, gift cards, or other untraceable payment methods may be insisted upon by unscrupulous vendors, and shady buyers may give gift cards that turn out to be worthless. Card issuers and payment processors such as PayPal will review fraud allegations on your behalf as a buyer, but not its sister Venmo app, and will also provide sellers with better transaction protection. Traders of the Respectable Marketplace would welcome the use of safe services, helping both legit buyers and sellers.
  2. Avoid transactions that don’t involve local buyers/sellers: In principle, within your area, Facebook will show only you, potential buyers, and sellers. (You may select a range as small as two miles or as wide as 100 miles, but 40 miles is the default.) If a vendor informs you that they will ship an item from a greater distance, there is a risk that the order will never arrive or that what was promised will not be. And if a buyer asks you to ship a long-distance object, especially internationally, consider steering clear: there is a scam for the buyer to cancel the payment once the item is in transit and you are unable to retrieve it.
  3. Check out buyer/seller profiles: “Check the profile of the seller under “seller details” when you click on an item available for sale. Ensure that they are located in your area, and check Facebook to see if you have mutual friends. That may be a warning sign if they’ve only been on Facebook for a short time or if they have very few contacts. Also, check Facebook for their name; if you see more than one profile using the same name and picture, a red flag should be raised.
  4. Inspect before making payment: If you’re buying an item before you authorize payment, make sure you can “see the goods” Bring along an expert who can check its worth whether the piece is jewelry or collectible. Plug it in or add batteries, whether it’s electronic, to make sure it works.
  5. Meet the buyer/seller in a public place: Some police departments encourage people to meet to finalize transfers in their station lobbies or parking lots; otherwise, select a public spot like a coffee shop or restaurant. Bring a pal, and if you feel awkward, film a video or take a few snaps of the conversation, so if there are any disagreements afterward, you can quickly recognize the other side.

When something’s not right

You are no more (or less) likely to run into shady characters when you do business via Facebook Marketplace than in the real world, or when you buy and sell products through services such as eBay and Craigslist. Keep alert, and if anything does not feel right, walk away.

You should and should take action if, however, you find yourself the victim of a scam:

  • Report them to Facebook as explained here if you suspect a Facebook Marketplace scammer.
  • Notify law enforcement if you think you’ve been scammed. Inform your local police departments and consider filing a report with the Internet FBI’s Crime Complaint Center (IC3). In both cases, the FBI does not pledge to follow up, but registering scams helps expose trends and fraud patterns that can help thwart cyber-crooks.

It can be a fun, competitive source of deals for the Facebook Marketplace. If you are as vigilant about possible fraud as you are about bargains, you are likely to have a good experience in the Marketplace. Ok, happy shopping!

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