Business

Buying online? Don’t send money to a third party

Emily Valla, Idaho Better Business Bureau
Emily Valla, Idaho Better Business Bureau

Facebook Marketplace can be a great place to find deals on items for sale in your neighborhood. But like any online classified site, watch out for warning signs before handing over money. Better Business Bureau is seeing reports of Facebook Marketplace scams in BBB Scam Tracker, especially for big-ticket items like used cars and RVs.

One Eagle resident reported her experience this year. She reached out to a someone who listed a car for sale, and the two began messaging. The seller was proposing using “Amazon” as a third party to hold the money while the Idahoan test drove and inspected the vehicle over a few days.

“During this entire period Amazon will not release any money to me and if after this trial period of 5 days you decide to keep it then with your approval Amazon will release the funds to me,” the phony seller wrote via text.

The seller explained the reason she couldn’t meet in person was due to a death in the family and a sudden move out-of-state.

If these tactics sound familiar, they should. The premise is common in fake check scams, but the twist here is the third party used to sell and ship the item. According to BBB reports, victims say scammers are using well-known company names including “ebay” and “Amazon.”

Scammers explain these companies are acting as an escrow service for the purchase to instill a false sense of security. If you are unhappy with your purchase, you can simply return for a full refund. Since you have confidence in the site being used for escrow, you agree.

Unfortunately, both the third-party service and the seller are a con. If you send money to the third-party, it’s going straight into the hands of scammers. The car or other item doesn’t exist. Some scammers have even gone as far as creating fake invoices from “Amazon” or “eBay,” stealing their logos to make the invoices look real.

How to avoid scams on Facebook Marketplace:

• Always meet the seller and see the item for sale before purchasing. This will help you avoid most scams on Facebook Marketplace. This is also true for housing rentals. If you can’t tour the house or apartment before renting it, it’s likely not available. Keep safety in mind, meeting in public and with others.

• Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services. This scam is only one take on this trend. Avoid them by purchasing directly from the seller.

• Report scams to Facebook. If you’ve encountered a scam on Facebook Marketplace, report them.

• Check BBB Tips: Many sales scams use similar techniques. Check out tips on BBB.org/webpurchasescam

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call 208-342-4649.

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