Tips to Avoid Getting Scammed When Buying a Car on Facebook Marketplace

If you’re shopping for a used car, Facebook Marketplace is a great source. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the Facebook Marketplace is backed by the social media giant and offers a peer-to-peer platform for any users looking to sell their cars (and other wares) in a safe manner. Since you can view the seller’s profile and message them directly via the messenger feature, that means it’s more secure than sites like Craigslist, right?

Not necessarily. With over a billion users currently utilizing Facebook Marketplace to sell their cars, there’s bound to be more than a few bad apples in the bunch. In that case, it’s important to protect yourself when shopping for a car on the social media site. Here are a few important tips to keep you safe from potential scammers on the site.

If the listing price sounds too good to be true, it probably is

A screenshot of a possible scam posting on Facebook Marketplace
A screenshot of a possible scam posting on Facebook Marketplace | Joe Santos

If you find yourself perusing Facebook Marketplace for a car, then you will more than likely run into a few listings with really good prices attached to them.

For example, I conducted a quick search for a Honda Accord in my area and one of the listings showed a pristine 2011 Honda Accord listed for $1,200. The ad says that the car “is in perfect condition” with new tires and registration tags. However, it also states that the messenger feature “doesn’t work” and the seller lists their e-mail address as the primary form of contact.

Out of fairness, I can’t say for sure that it’s a scam without actually contacting the person, however, that particular listing has all of the makings of one. ProPublica even reports that “a suspiciously low price tag on a vehicle should give the buyer pause for multiple reasons.” As such, it may not be worth your time and energy to follow up on an ad like I found.

The seller won’t meet with you in person

If you do end up finding a legit-sounding listing for a car on Facebook Marketplace and engage in a conversation with the seller (on FB messenger), it’s a red flag if they won’t meet in person. Since many Marketplace car listings are local, there shouldn’t be any reason why the buyer and seller cannot meet in person, especially when the product in question is a car that costs thousands of dollars.

If you can’t get the seller to meet with you in person, for any reason, then avoid doing business with them.

The seller may ask you to pay for the car using gift cards

Have you ever taken gift cards as payment for an item? Probably not. But many scammers on Facebook Marketplace will readily ask you to make payments via eBay gift cards or the like. Keep in mind that legit sellers will typically want to be paid in cash or an instant transfer. Anyone asking you to pay using gift cards should be seen as a red flag.

The seller may have creative ways of describing the car in the ad

If you do end up engaging with a scammer and ask him or her why the price for the car is so low, then they may end up giving you a creative sob story. ProPublica says that scammers will tend to use stories to elicit feelings of sympathy from the buyer in order to get them emotionally involved in the purchase. If their story seems over-the-top, then kindly dismiss the transaction.

Beware of Facebook Marketplace scammers

The aforementioned tips and scenarios should help you when navigating the Facebook Marketplace used car listings. The most important part is to use your own instincts to decipher whether or not a listing is real or fake. Always remember: If it’s too good to be true, it more than likely is. Also, don’t send anyone money before seeing the car, especially in the form of gift cards.

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