ST. LOUIS – Online marketplaces like Facebook are popular for buying and selling things. But, there’s a problem: scammers trick people. Sarah Wetzel from BBB St. Louis wants to help Facebook users understand these scammers better and stay safe.
“Facebook does have security measures in place, but what we’re seeing is that these scammers are pretending to be buyers,” Sarah Wetzel with BBB St. Louis, said. “They reach out to you about what you’re selling, and then they ask you for your phone number.”
Wetzel says the scammer will then say they’re going to send you a six-digit code, so you can prove to them, you’re a real seller. The BBB shared these examples of scam messages. You can see the scammer posing as a buyer following the playbook Wetzel described. She says to cut communication with anyone who asks to send you a code.
“If anybody’s asking for your phone number and trying to communicate off of Facebook, that is a huge red flag,” Wetzel said.
She also warns of scammers overpaying for an item using a fraudulent payment method. They’re attempting to get sellers to send them legitimate money in return.
“If you ever receive an overpayment, decline that and tell them to send the correct amount. Honestly, before you even go there, you may want to see that as a red flag and not go on with that transaction,” Wetzel said.
In August, Florissant police arrested Javonte Hicks after he was accused of robbing someone of three pairs of shoes in a Facebook Marketplace meetup gone wrong. Court documents show Hicks was charged with robbery and armed criminal action. It’s an extreme but important example of why vetting the person you’re buying from or selling to on Marketplace is crucial.
“If it looks like that profile is brand new—a red flag. Scammers love to create new fake profiles. They’ll scam a few people, they’ll get rid of that profile, and start a new one,” Wetzel said.
Despite the embarrassment or shame you may feel after getting scammed, Wetzel says it’s important to report what happened to law enforcement and other authorities.
“Report it to Facebook, but then also report it to the BBB,” she said. “We have a treat tool called Scam Tracker at BBB.org. You can report how and what happened to you and that way you’re protecting other consumers.”