What the Tech? How to Protect Yourself from Scams When Shopping in Online Marketplaces

By JAMIE TUCKER Consumer Technology Reporter

With over a billion people buying and selling things on Facebook Marketplace, there are bound to be a lot of scams.

Scams targeting sellers are more severe and can involve robberies, assaults, and even murders. One study found at least 13 people have been killed since 2020 when buyers and sellers connected on Marketplace.

When it comes to buying items on Facebook Marketplace, the risks are often scams.

Marketplace sprinkles in sponsored ads with search results and many offer free shipping. If you’re buying something to be shipped you cannot inspect the item ahead of time to determine
whether it’s a fake. Counterfeits are most common in clothing, accessories, and electronics.

The other scam risk for buyers is with the transaction itself. Facebook recommends using a credit card, debit card, or Paypal. If you pay for the item with a debit card, the money comes out
of your bank account immediately and you probably won’t be able to get your money back using Facebook’s purchase protection. It’s best to use a credit card or Paypal which will refund your
money if the item is different than how it was described.

It’s safer purchasing items locally but there are scams to watch out for here as well.

Be wary if a seller wants to move the conversation to another platform such as text or another messaging app.

If they ask you to pay with Venmo, Cash App, or Zelle, there is no protection for your purchase. Venmo states it’s primarily for people who know one another and purchases for most
merchandise are not protected.

Check out the seller’s Facebook profile. Do you have any mutual friends? Does their Facebook Profile look empty with no posts and no personal information? It could be a fake.

If you decide to purchase the item ask that they meet you at the police department parking lot. If they refuse it may be because they don’t want to be anywhere near police officers.

It may seem obvious but people do fall for other scams. If you’re picking up the item and paying for it using a cash app, don’t hand your phone to the seller so they can complete the transaction.
They can quickly transfer as much money as they want to their account without needing your confirmation. That money is immediately out of your account and into theirs and you can’t get it
back.

If you are scammed, contact your local police department and report it to the Federal Trade Commission’s Fraud website, www.reportfraud.ftc.gov.

 

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