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Why Facebook Marketplace is a mess

By Clay LePard,


It’s a place where you can buy just about everything, however, sellers on Facebook's popular Marketplace reported that the feature has become swamped with spammers over the past several weeks.

Empty-nester Kevin K. of Kent said out of every ten inquiries he's received lately for his items, nine of them are likely scammers.

"The telltale sign is they don’t say anything about the item for sale," he explained. "They don’t have any questions like what color is it, what size is it? The first thing and one of the main things they ask for is your phone number."

Kristy Ulmen
A sample conversation submitted to News 5 that was reported to Facebook as a potential scam.

The Better Business Bureau reported the scam beginning last year , however, sellers in Northeast Ohio told News 5 they truly noticed a difference in the past few months.

Here’s how it works: potential buyers reply that they are interested in an item up for sale, then immediately ask to move the conversation off Facebook and instead to either via text or phone call. Then, they ask for a verification code sent to your phone with the intent of setting up a Google Voice account with your number.

"If they have your phone number, they can actually make it look like you’re the one making all the automated phone calls, the bots that come through," warned Dr. John Nicholas, University of Akron computer science professor with a focus on cybersecurity. "The criminals have found a way into the online space and we now need to use street smarts, maybe we should call them cyber street smarts."

Dr. Nicholas admits that it might feel like just a nuisance cybercrime, but he told News 5 if the scammer has any other information of yours, it's possible they could also have the ability to open accounts on your behalf or hack into your other personal accounts such as online banking.

The FBI’s internet crime complaint center reported nationwide $6.9 billion dollars lost or stolen from cybercriminals in 2021. That amounts to more than $133 million last year in Ohio.

So what can you do about all this??

News 5 reached out to Facebook and its parent company Meta about this perceived increase in scammers. They provided News 5 with the best tips to avoid being scammed:

When using Facebook Marketplace, you should avoid:
    • Communicating with buyers or sellers privately outside of Facebook and Messenger. This may look like: Requests to contact other individuals (example: relatives of the seller) that are not the true owner of the Facebook account or users contacting you about a Marketplace listing outside of Marketplace (example: from Instagram).
    • Messages or emails directly from the seller telling you that there was something wrong with your payment.
    • Providing gift card details (example: the claim code) for payment to someone you don’t know.
    • Sales or transactions requiring you to pay with gift cards.
    • Buyers or sellers that push you to move quickly to complete a sale, or pressure you to complete the sale immediately. This can be an attempt to get around any normal safe practices.

    For more information about how to shop responsibly on Facebook, click here.

    As for Kevin K., he told News 5 he’ll keep selling online on whichever platform helps clear out his clutter the fastest.

    News 5
    When News 5 reached out to Kevin K. over Facebook for this story, Koogle went so far as to email reporter Clay LePard to confirm another potential scammer hadn't been disguising himself as LePard.

    "Your message could have easily been copied and pasted and the phone number could’ve been not yours and then as soon as they called it, they would’ve gotten my real number," Kevin K. explained.

    As for the scam messages, he’s on his own crusade by blocking them, reporting them, and dragging out some conversations as long as he can.

    "I enjoy messing with them," he added. "I figure while I’m doing this, they’re not scamming little old ladies that may be easily scammed so I’m wasting their time and enjoying it myself maybe too much and then I will tell them their mother is very disappointed in them, very disappointed in them."

    To learn how to report a scam on Facebook Marketplace, click here.

    Clay LePard is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter @ClayLePard or on Facebook Clay LePard News 5 .

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