Facebook Marketplace can be great for finding a bargain or hard-to-locate items, but buyers and sellers are increasingly falling victim to predatory scammers with too-good-to-be-true offers.
Beware these latest traps before they cost you.
Alexandra Duffin told SBS News she was attempting to sell her laptop on Facebook Marketplace. She listed the item and almost immediately received a message asking if the laptop was still available.
The buyer seemed satisfied with the item and the price but wanted to use PayID to make the payment. PayID is a payment system that allows you to link a mobile number, email address or ABN to your bank account, and use that identifier to receive payments instead of giving out your BSB and account number.
Ms Duffin says she thought it a little odd that she set up a payID account of her own and questioned the buyer on this.
“She said, ‘I’m paying via my family business account. I’ll need the seller’s email address to confirm the payment’,” Ms Duffin says.
“And she sent me a screenshot of how to put your email through. It looked legitimate.”
The buyer then emailed Ms Duffin to tell her she had sent the payment, but that she had sent $500 more than she needed to and could Ms Duffin refund this extra money immediately.
Being an honest person, Ms Duffin went to do just that before noticing this email confirming payment had come from a Gmail account.
“After I looked at the email, it said it was a Gmail account. I realised this is a scam,” she says.
“We all know big companies don’t use Gmail.”
It was at this point Ms Duffin ceased all further communication. But not everyone is so lucky.
Another uniquely Australian scam popping up on Facebook Marketplace is the caravan scam.
With Australia open for business, there’s been a rush to buy caravans and hit the road. But with so many people keen to buy one, the situation is something of a honeypot for scammers.
Juliette Jones told Seniors Discount Club she had been searching for a caravan for her family on Facebook Marketplace for weeks.
She finally came across an amazing deal – a four-berth Lunar caravan being offered for just $4207. For reference, this model usually sells for $34,134.95 new or around $20,000 second-hand. This probably should have tipped off Ms Jones that all was not right.
She messaged the seller and quickly received a further 15 photos of the caravan. She confirmed the caravan’s registration matched that of a real caravan.
However, she had no way of knowing if the caravan in question actually belonged to the person on the other end.
Ms Jones then offered a $548 deposit to ‘secure’ the caravan before inspecting it. The seller accepted, but as soon as the deposit was sent, the seller’s account, along with the ad, disappeared and the money was gone.
After her experience, Ms Jones connected with other people on Facebook who had fallen victim to the same scammer.
“Same caravan, same person and all different deposits,” she said.
“We were fortunate how much we paid compared to what some others did.”
How can you avoid scams?
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says one way to ensure you avoid scammers is to keep all communications in a secure platform and to not take discussions to a different forum.
“Many people report losing money after communicating with the scammer over email to discuss a purchase on a digital marketplace,” an ACCC spokesperson says.
“Scammers commonly ask for payment methods like preloaded gift cards, bank or international funds transfers, and cryptocurrency, making it harder to recover funds.”
The old saying ‘if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is’ applies here as well. Luring unsuspecting victims in with impossibly low prices is one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Also make sure you can organise to physically view the item before payment. This request often stops scammers dead in their tracks and should be one of the first things you mention when dealing with a seller online.
Does a bargain price for an item raise a red flag for you? Would you send a deposit before sighting an item? Have you come across other scams on social media? Why not share your experiences in the comments section below?