Protect yourself from scammers who sell using Social Media.
Although making purchases via social media is not a new concept, it may be relatively unfamiliar to people who haven’t done it before. Unfortunately, it can be fraught with danger. Scammers can use various underhanded methods to defraud you or steal your identity.
Social engineering is just one manipulation technique that cybercriminals use to appear legitimate and trustworthy while encouraging individuals to divulge confidential information. A smooth-talking scammer can easily lull a person into a false sense of security by playing into a potential victim’s ego, loneliness, vanity, or even the desire for a cheap deal. The simple act of placing an ad in a legitimate medium, like a social platform, can make a scammer appear authentic. If a fake offer appears in your social feed, surrounded by posts from family, friends, and people you trust, it – by association alone – often feels less threatening.
Facebook Marketplace is a breeding ground for fraud that targets both buyers and sellers. A few common scams include:
- Providing fake payment receipts, then making demands for a product or service
- Overpaying for an item and following up with a reimbursement request - when the reimbursement is made, the original payment is canceled
- A customer pays for a product in good faith but receives a broken, stolen, counterfeit, recalled, or bootleg item
- To eliminate any proof of a sale, a fraudulent seller may attempt to contact a buyer outside of Facebook
Stay alert for red flags:
- Unrealistically low prices on items of real value
- Buyers or sellers who resist in-person meetings
- Buyers or sellers who refuse to connect in highly visible, public places
- Facebook’s Purchase Protection Policy is there for a reason - avoid any buyer or seller who insists on using a payment method that falls outside the Policy parameters
- Oddly “new” buyers or sellers – avoid people or businesses with new profiles, missing or strange profile pictures, and with suspiciously little historical activity
- A buyer who asks to pay with a gift card
- Buyers who tell you they’ll send you a pre-paid shipping label - they can send your item to any random address, then claim it was never received
- Anyone who asks for personally identifiable information (social security number, credit card details, etc.)
- A buyer or seller who casually mentions one of your friends, family members, coworkers, or neighbors by name – by speaking with the scammer, you could unknowingly fill in the blanks and give them what they need to take advantage of someone else
To give yourself the best chance of enjoying a successful transaction with a legitimate buyer or seller…
- Review all your banking and credit card statements monthly
- Check the seller’s profile, online history, reviews, and website.
- Ask your local police department if they offer a safety exchange zone and use it!
- Trust your gut. If your instincts tell you something’s not right, stop talking and sever the connection as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about “not being polite” – protecting yourself is the top priority.
If you have even the slightest suspicion that you’re being scammed, contact First Northern Bank and Trust immediately, file a report with local police or the State Attorney General’s office, and report the scam to the social media platform on which it occurred.
Visit these social platforms to learn more about avoiding scams: