Four common Facebook Marketplace scams and how to avoid them

With the rising cost of living putting pressure on household budgets, Australians are looking to online platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree to turn their unwanted items into cash. However cybercriminals are targeting these platforms with a range of scams that can leave unwary buyers and sellers out of pocket. Here we look at four common scams and how to protect yourself online. 

Facebook Marketplace is great for buying and selling second hand items. It connects you with other members of the community that may need that old lounge you’re upgrading from or that pushbike languishing in the garage from lack of use. Unfortunately sometimes it can also connect you to scammers. 

The techniques scammers use on Facebook Marketplace and similar platforms such as Gumtree are many, varied and ever changing, which makes them harder to spot. Here we look at four common scamming techniques and how to avoid them.

My friend doesn’t use Facebook

A scammer will contact you about your listing and tell you that their friend or relative is interested in your item, adding that the friend doesn’t use Facebook. They may ask you to email or text an address or number that they claim belongs to their friend to arrange a transaction. 

Or the scammer might say they are interested in your item but can’t meet in person and will instead send a friend or relative – then ask for your email to pass on to the third party.

Once the scammer has your email or phone number, they can use it to send you other scams or malware that strips data from your computer or mobile device.

Be wary of sending any buyers your contact details. It’s safer to keep communications within the messaging service of the trading platform.

Overpayment scam

Other scammers will say they’ve sent payment for the item you are selling and accidently overpaid you. They may send a screenshot of the transaction receipt, requesting you to repay the difference. In fact the transaction is fake and they haven’t paid you anything.

Always check your own transaction records with your bank in the app or online before transferring any “refund” for alleged overpayment.

Broken item

In this type of scam, a seller advertises an electronic device that looks in good condition in the photograph, and the listing may say it’s barely used. You purchase it but when you get the item home and try to use it, it doesn’t work.

It’s best to inspect and test any electronic products before handing over payment.

Pay ID

These scammers may respond to your listing with an offer to pay using PayID, an instant payment method that uses a person’s mobile number, email, or ABN to send and receive money. The scammer then tricks you into paying a fee to activate or upgrade your Pay ID account, with a fake email informing you of a problem with the “transaction”.

Pay ID is a safe method of payment but you should beware of requests for additional payments. You should never have to send money to receive a Pay ID payment. If in doubt about a request, call your financial institution.

How to identify scammers 

Red flags that may alert you to scammers include:

  • A buyer or seller with a brand new profile or without a Facebook profile photo
  • A price on an item that’s too good to be true 
  • A buyer wanting to pay with a gift card 
  • A buyer who says they accidently overpaid for an item
  • A seller or buyer requesting personal information such as your phone number or email address or wishing to communicate with you outside Facebook

Tips to avoid getting scammed

  • Research potential buyers. Check their and their location. If they live in Thailand, it’s unlikely they plan to pick up your item in rural Queensland in a day’s time.
  • Look at reviews of sellers to see what other buyers say about them.
  • Don’t click on any links sent to you or download anything to your computer.
  • Don’t hand over money until you see the item for sale.
  • Use payment options that provide strong protections such as Paypal.
  • If a price seems too good to be true, ask to see multiple photos of the item, a live video or even an original sales receipt before agreeing to buy. 

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

If you’ve lost money via a scam, notify your financial institution as as soon as possible.

For more advice on how to avoid scams and what to do if you have been a victim of a scam, visit the Scamwatch website at