Since the early days of the pandemic, there has been a sharp increase in people buying and selling personal items online. Two of the most popular websites people use today to sell unneeded items are Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
Both sites are safe to use if you know how to spot and avoid scams. To demonstrate this, I listed a DSLR camera that I hadn’t used in years on Facebook Marketplace. I took some photos from the camera, added a description, set a price and clicked save.
Within minutes I received 8 replies from other Facebook users asking if the item was still available. Before replying to these messages, I decided to check them first.
6 of the messages appeared to be from real people with authentic Facebook profile accounts in my area. Two of them were clearly fake. A user’s profile contained no photo, no posts, and no friends. A second suspicious profile only had a picture of a cat as their profile photo and had only once posted a photo of a lizard playing a guitar.
Before replying to each Marketplace message, verify the person’s Facebook profile. You can find a link to it in their message where they created a “group”.
Even if their Facebook profile has a few pictures and posts, it’s a good idea to take a closer look before doing business with them. For another item I listed recently, I received a message from Colleen Reyes saying she could pick up the item the next day. Curious, I opened her profile photo in a new tab in Google Chrome. I then copied the link to that photo and pasted it into a search bar on www.tineye.com.
A search of the TinEye website revealed that the user had stolen a photo from a 2014 newspaper article by a New Jersey attorney. The scammer stole this photo, cropped it, and then uploaded it as a profile photo to create a Facebook account for Colleen Reyes.
You should also be suspicious of any buyer who asks you to move your conversation to another platform like WeChat, Twitter, or text.
There are several ways scammers use Marketplace and Craigslist.
A potential buyer asks you to convert the conversation to text and provides their phone number. They then ask you to prove that you are human. They send a Google verification code and then ask you to text it to them. The code allows the scammer to set up a new Google Voice number linked to your phone number, which they can use to scam other people.
Another common scam popped up on a Craigslist I posted a few months ago. A woman texted me that she is unable to collect the item at this time but will send me a bank check for the item I have listed. And she pays a little more for my trouble. She also said that the cashier’s check was for a little more than I listed the item and asked me to cash the banker’s check and wire her the difference. If you go through with this, the bank check will bounce and you will have to refund the bank. If you send it to the seller before the check clears, you’ll lose money paying the bank back and you’ll lose the item.
Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are safe to use as long as you are careful, understand how the scams work and avoid messaging people who appear to be fake buyers.
If you’re selling items locally, it’s best to meet the buyer somewhere other than your home. Ask to meet her at the police station and never take a check. Cash should be your first choice, although Venmo and Cell are fine for accepting payments.