8 Facebook Marketplace Scams to Watch Out for in 2024

I’ve bought and sold over 200 items on Facebook Marketplace since it launched in 2016. My TV, rowing machine, dresser — heck, even our sectional sofa came from Marketplace. 

I’ve also sold car parts, video games, furniture, and more, and if a student shows up, I usually let them have the item for free. 

Point being, Facebook Marketplace can be a superb place to find amazing deals and resell unused goods. But like any big market in a major city, it also attracts its fair share of purse snatchers and con artists. 

I’ve been targeted by scammers countless times and fallen prey once (a story I’ll tell below). And it appears I’m not the only one — a 2024 survey found that 62% of respondents had been targeted by a scam while using Marketplace. 

Erika Taught Me

  • Facebook Marketplace can be a safe resource for finding deals, but it’s also a haven for scammers.
  • In general, you should never send your email, cellphone number, address, or any form of payment in advance. 
  • Always trust your gut — if a potential buyer/seller says something that strikes you as even the tiniest bit odd, it’s probably a scam. 

. . .

Quick Tips for Staying Safe on Facebook Marketplace

Before we dive into the specifics of each scam, here are some quick tips for detecting and avoiding Facebook Marketplace scams in the first place: 

  • Trust your gut. If something feels “off” or “too good to be true,” I promise you, it is. 
  • You don’t owe anyone anything. Certain buyers and sellers (legitimate or otherwise) can get testy if they don’t get what they want. If someone makes you uncomfortable, you don’t owe them an explanation — just block them and move on. 
  • Meet in public (ideally at the police station). Many local police stations will have designated safe areas for Craigslist-style transactions. 
  • Never send payment in advance. Anyone asking for any sort of “deposit” in advance is a scammer. 
  • Never leak personal information. If a buyer/seller asks for anything more than your PayPal or Venmo address, it’s probably a scam (that includes asking for your Zelle info — I’ll elaborate on that in a bit). 
  • Never give your exact address. In the rare case that I sell something out of my house, I never give out our address. I give them the nearest intersection, and when they arrive and appear safe/legit, I come out to greet them. 

8 Facebook Marketplace Scams

Now that you’ve taken Marketplace Scams 101, let’s dive into the advanced course and cover eight specific examples you’re likely to encounter. 

1. “I need a deposit”

Back in early 2021, when the new Xbox and PlayStation were still difficult to find, I managed to find an Xbox on Marketplace for retail price. 

The seller appeared to have a legitimate profile and claimed that she had bought it for her nephew who wanted a PlayStation instead. She added that she just wanted her money back without having to drive an hour to the store, so she’d flip it for the exact amount she’d paid. 

I was halfway to her house when she texted that someone else had “outbid” me by $25. But if I sent her $25 right now, she’d hold it for me and only me. I was so desperate to play the new Xbox during the pandemic that I Venmo’d her $25 right away.

Then, to no one’s surprise, the seller disappeared. 

The moral of the story: Never, ever send anyone money until you’ve verified the product in person. If someone asks for any kind of deposit in advance, it’s a scam. 

2. “Payment sent, check your email”

Another common scam is for buyers to claim that they’ve already paid you via Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, etc. — and to “check your email” for proof. 

Sure enough, you open your email and find an official-looking message from one of the big payment apps: 

Screenshot of a Venmo confirmation email
Legitimate payment confirmation from Venmo | Photo by author

The email will look exactly like the legitimate one pictured above, but with one exception: the sender address will say something like “[email protected]” or “[email protected]” — clearly indicating that it’s fake. 

You also won’t get a notification from the real Venmo or PayPal, which is another dead giveaway that you’re being grifted. 

3. “Can you send me all of your Zelle info?”

Here’s how this one works: You and a buyer agree to a price, and they insist on paying you via Zelle. Zelle is a legitimate online payment platform, so you agree. 

But to add you as a recipient on Zelle, the buyer says they need your full name, email, phone number, and possibly more. 

See where I’m going with this? 

It’s a phishing scam. By pretending they “need your Zelle info,” the scammer is just trying to see how much personal information you’re willing to give them. 

That’s why I personally never use Zelle with buyers I don’t already trust — only PayPal, Venmo, or cold hard cash. 

@erikakullberg Do this 1 thing to avoid Zelle scams 🤯 #lawyer #money #hacks ♬ original sound – Money Lawyer Erika

4. “Interested in the rental? Please fill out this lease application”

Another thing you should know about Marketplace is that it’s positively rife with real estate scams. 

One of the most common is the “lease application” scam, where you find a rental property with amazingly low rent, and the “management company” asks you to fill out a renter’s application. Some may even ask for a deposit upfront, just to hold the property in your name. 

Hopefully, by this point, you’ll have spotted three red flags: 

  1. The property seemed too good to be true. 
  2. A stranger on the Internet is asking for loads of personal information.
  3. They “need a deposit” upfront. 

One of the best ways to spot and avoid rental scams in general is to Google the address, verify the real landlord, and cross-check all of the information on the listing. 

5. “Shoot me your number and I’ll just text you”

If you report a scam on Facebook (and try to get your money back), one of the first things Facebook will look at is your chat history with the fake buyer/seller. 

That’s why some scammers will try to pull you off of Facebook Messenger as soon as possible — and collect your personal cellphone number in the process.

6. “My cousin will come pick it up”

This one has become so common that r/FacebookMarketplace has taken to calling it “the cousin scam.” 

A buyer will agree to send payment before they even meet you, and claim that a family member will come retrieve the item later. They’ll usually have some excuse like, “It’s for my son, so he’s coming to pick it up” or “I have a small car, so my cousin will come to get it in his trailer.” 

It’s a bit of an odd scam, but the prevailing theory is that the scammer is trying to do multiple things at once: 

  1. Collect your Zelle data.
  2. Get your home address.
  3. Manufacture a reason to send you money immediately, teeing you up for scam #7.

No legitimate buyer will offer to pay you in full without seeing the product, so if you spot obvious signs of the “cousin scam,” simply block and report the account. 

7. “I accidentally overpaid you, can you send $100 back?”

As hinted above, scammers will sometimes manufacture a reason to send you money beforehand. They may also send you too much money and ask you to send the excess back. 

In either case, they’re probably attempting a “chargeback scam.” 

With this scam, a seemingly legit buyer will agree to pay you — let’s say $200 for a set of earrings. But they send you $300 via PayPal and say, “Oops! Could you send the $100 back?” 

Since you’re a good person, you send the $100 back, keep the $200 you both agreed on, and ship the earrings. 

A week later, you get a notice from your bank that the $300 you originally received was fraudulent, and was sent using a stolen credit card. So your bank debits $300 from your account, leaving you down $100 cash and a $200 set of earrings. 

The same thing might happen during the cousin scam: “Hey, turns out my cousin can’t make it. Would you please wire the $500 back?” 

In any case, if a buyer asks you to wire money back, it’s best to notify the payment platform immediately. They can help you identify whether you’re dealing with a scammer. 

READ MORE: ​​Credit Card Purchase Protection: What You Need to Know

8. “Send me the verification code to prove you’re real”

Lastly, one of the sneakiest scams I’ve come across is the “I’m real — but are you real?” scam. If you fall prey to it, it can also be the single most devastating (thankfully, I’m not speaking from personal experience). 

A buyer or seller will reach out to you and, at first, they’ll seem perfectly normal and human. You may agree to a price and even exchange niceties.

But at some point, they’ll question your legitimacy and ask you to “prove” yourself by sending them a verification code that just hit your phone. 

If you do this, the scammer will use your two-factor authentication code to log into your bank, Gmail, or whatever they can get their scammy hands on — and cause absolute havoc. 

Needless to say, there’s a reason virtually every verification code you receive comes with a disclaimer, often in all-caps: “Never share this with anyone.” 

FAQs

What should you do if you get scammed on Facebook Marketplace?

File a claim/report to both Facebook and the payment app you used to complete the transaction. One or both may be able to refund your money as well as protect other users from the scammer. 

Is Venmo safe for Facebook Marketplace?

It can be. Payments completed through Facebook or marked “goods and services” through Venmo both come with purchase protection, aka insurance against scams. 

Is it safe to give your address on Facebook Marketplace?

No. It’s best to meet potential buyers/sellers at a local police station. If they must come to your home (e.g., to buy furniture), provide them with a nearby cross street. 

Wrapping Up

Despite a rising number of scams in recent years, I still contend that Facebook Marketplace is one of the greatest untapped resources for selling and buying things you need. 

From cars to couches, tablets to home exercise equipment, there are plenty of positive buyer/seller interactions waiting to happen. 

Just be sure to have your wits about you when you shop!

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.