If you’re looking for a good deal on holiday gifts or thinking of selling some of your old things to finance a shopping spree, the Facebook Marketplace is an excellent alternative to yard sales and flea markets.
The Marketplace, like every other online exchange (and those in the real world), attracts its fair share of swindlers and scammers. So, here are some tips for making Facebook’s Marketplace a source of joy rather than deception. Facebook Marketplace: How to Buy and Sell Safely
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What is Facebook Marketplace?
Facebook launched Marketplace in October 2016, and by May 2017, more than 18 million products had been listed for sale in the United States alone. Since then, the service has spread to other countries. Facebook estimates that search volume in the Marketplace tab has increased threefold globally since the beginning of 2017, with over 550 million people participating in buy and sell groups every month.
The idea is straightforward: Using information from your profile to decide your location, Facebook displays a variety of items for sale in your area—as well as the ability to list your products for sale. When buyers see a thing they want to buy, they contact the seller via Facebook Messenger and arrange for the transaction to be completed. Using Messenger allows traders to conduct business without sharing addresses or phone numbers, and Facebook does not charge a fee for the service. Facebook Marketplace: How to Buy and Sell Safely
It is easy to use Marketplace. Click the Marketplace button in the left column of your Facebook homepage or at the bottom of the Facebook smartphone app. You’ll see a slew of pictures of things for sale, each with a price tag. Browse around, or use the filters to narrow down your quest by item type, price, and so on. If you want to sell something, click the blue “Sell Something” button and fill out the form. Selling using the mobile app will save you time because it allows you to take a snapshot of your item and connect it to the listing without saving and uploading images. Facebook Marketplace: How to Buy and Sell Safely
Tips on Facebook Marketplace
Here are five tips to help you have a positive and stable Facebook Marketplace experience:
Use a credit card or secure electronic payment service for all transactions.
Since the Marketplace lacks a built-in payment system, you must negotiate payments directly with the other party in a transaction. Untrustworthy sellers may insist on cash, gift cards, or other untraceable payment methods, and shady buyers may offer worthless gift cards. Card issuers and payment processors like PayPal—but not its sister app Venmo—will investigate fraud allegations on your behalf as a customer, and they also have better transaction protection for sellers. Reputable Marketplace traders would appreciate the use of safe platforms, which will help both legitimate buyers and sellers.
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Avoid transactions that don’t involve local buyers/sellers.
In principle, Facebook can only show you, potential buyers and sellers, in your immediate vicinity. (You can set the radius to as little as two miles or as far as 100 miles, but the default is 40 miles.) If a vendor says they’ll have an item delivered from a greater distance away, there’s a chance the order won’t arrive or won’t be what was expected. And, if a buyer requests that you ship an item long distance, particularly internationally, consider declining: The buyer will cancel the payment once the thing is in transit and irretrievable by you.
Check out buyer/seller profiles.
When you click on an item for sale, look at the seller’s profile under “seller stats.” Check Facebook to see if you have any mutual friends, and make sure they are in your city. If they’ve only been on Facebook for a short time or have a small number of followers, this may be a red flag. Also, do a Facebook search for their name; if you see several profiles with the same name and picture, that could raise a red flag.
Inspect before making payment.
Before you authorize payment for an object, make sure you can “see the goods.” Bring along an expert who can check the object’s worth, whether it is jewelry or a collectible. If it’s electronic, plug it in or replace the batteries to ensure that it works. Facebook Marketplace: How to Buy and Sell Safely
Meet the buyer/seller in a public place.
Some police departments encourage people to meet in their station lobbies or parking lots to finalize exchanges; if this is not possible, choose a general location such as a coffee shop or restaurant. Bring a friend, and if you’re feeling brave, film a video or take a few photos of the conversation so you can quickly recognize the other party if there are any disagreements later.
When something’s not right
When you conduct business through Facebook Marketplace, you are no more (or less) likely to encounter shady characters than you are in the real world or when you buy and sell products through platforms like eBay and Craigslist. Keep an eye out for red flags and walk away if anything doesn’t feel right. Facebook Marketplace: How to Buy and Sell Safely
If you are still a victim of a scam, you should and should take the following steps:
- If you suspect a Facebook Marketplace scammer, follow the steps outlined here.
- Notify law enforcement if you think you have been duped. Notify your local authorities, and consider filing a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The FBI does not pledge to follow up on all cases, but registering scams aids in discovering fraud trends and patterns that can aid in the prosecution of cyber-crooks.
Facebook Marketplace can be a lively and exciting source of deals. You’re more likely to have a positive Marketplace experience if you’re as an alert for possible fraud as you are for bargains. Have fun shopping!
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