Craigslist

WHAT IS TECH? The latest scams on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist

Since the early days of the pandemic, the number of people buying and selling personal items online has increased. Two of the most popular websites that people use today to sell useless items are Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

Both sites are safe to use if you know how to spot scams and how to avoid them. To demonstrate, 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 eight replies from other Facebook users asking if the item was still available. Before replying to these messages, I decided to check them first.

Six of the posts appeared to be from real people with genuine Facebook profile accounts from my area. Two of them were clearly rigged. A user’s profile contained no photos, posts or friends. A second suspicious profile only had a photo of a cat as their profile picture and had posted only once, a photo of a lizard playing a guitar.

Before responding to each Marketplace message, check the person’s Facebook profile. You’ll find a link to it in their post where they created a “group”.

Even though their Facebook profile has a few photos and posts, it’s a good idea to take a closer look before doing business with them. On another post, I recently mentioned that I received a message from Colleen Reyes saying she could pick up the item the next day. Curious, I opened his profile picture in a new tab on Google Chrome. I then copied the link to this photo and pasted it into a search bar at www.tineye.com

A search using the TinEye site revealed that the user had stolen a photo from a 2014 newspaper article of a New Jersey attorney. The scammer stole this photo, cropped it, then uploaded it as a profile picture to create a Facebook account for Colleen Reyes.

You should also be wary of any buyer who asks you to move your conversation to another platform such as WeChat, Twitter or SMS.

Scammers use Marketplace and Craigslist in different ways.

A potential buyer asks you to move 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 showed up on a Craigslist listing I posted a few months ago. A woman has texted saying she can’t pick up the item right now, but will send me a cashier’s check for the item I listed. And for my trouble, she will pay a little more. She also said that the cashier’s check would be made out for a little more than I had listed for the item, and asked me to cash the cashier’s check and wire the difference to her. If you continue, the cashier’s check will bounce and you’ll have to pay the bank back. If you send it to the seller before the check has cleared, you will lose money by reimbursing the bank and you will lose the object.

Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are safe to use as long as you are careful, understand how 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 them at the police station and never accept a check. Cash should be your first choice, although Venmo and Zelle accept payments.

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