How to avoid Facebook Marketplace scams when buying a car

January 04, 2024 by

Tempted by a cheap used car on Facebook Marketplace? Make sure it’s not too good to be true before parting with your cash by reading this guide to social media scams.

If you’re after a cheap runaround, Facebook Marketplace can be a good place to bag a bargain. You need to have your wits about you though, as scammers could use this platform to rob you of your hard-earned cash, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with all the red flags when looking at a car.

This handy guide will walk you through the warning signs of Facebook Marketplace scams, and most of these tips and tricks apply to any private car sale whether you’re buying through Facebook, or other buying and selling websites such as Gumtree or eBay.

What is a Facebook Marketplace scam?

Anyone can list their car for sale on platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, and most of the ads you see will be genuine. However, a small handful may not be as they seem.

Unscrupulous sellers could try to make you part with your cash without giving you the car in return. Some scams involve scammers who use stolen pictures of a car they don’t own to tempt you in, then try to convince you that everything is legitimate when messaging you. They’ll then push you to leave a large deposit, or even pay the full price of the car before you’ve seen it, then disappear with your cash never to be seen again.

This leaves you with no new car, and you’ve lost your money. According to figures from Santander, £479,964 was reported as lost to Facebook car scams in 2023, up 93% from 2022.

In response to this report, a Meta spokesperson told the RAC: “We recognise our important role in tackling the industry-wide issue of online purchase scams and have systems in place to block scams.

“Facebook Marketplace is a local meet up and collection service so we don’t facilitate payments or shipping, but scammers exploit this by taking conversations off our platforms where we can’t enforce.

“We encourage our community to report scams immediately so we can take action and we’ll continue equipping customers with knowledge to transact securely and avoid fraud on Marketplace.”

How can I avoid getting scammed on Facebook?

There are a few ways you can protect yourself from getting scammed on Facebook Marketplace, or any buying and selling website for that matter.

The first thing to keep in mind is that if the car seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will usually tempt victims in with a fairly new or desirable car for a very low price, so search around for other examples first to get an idea of what that model usually sells for. If the car you’re looking at is significantly cheaper than the average, and there’s no obvious reason why, such as high mileage, alarm bells should be ringing.

Scammers on Facebook may also try to move you away from the platform and get you to talk via email or text. It’s best practice to avoid doing this, as it makes it harder to track communications between you and the scammer if you need to report it.

Don’t be pressured into parting with your cash. If the seller is rushing you to pay them before you’ve even seen the car, just walk away. Don’t hand over any money until you’ve stood in front of the car in person and you’re happy with it. An image online is not proof that the car exists.

Make sure you carry out all the usual checks before committing to buy the car. A HPI check is a really important thing to do, especially when buying a car privately. You can make sure the car isn’t recorded as stolen, scrapped or written off, as well as checking for any outstanding finance.

What can I do if I’ve been scammed on Facebook?

Even the most savvy buyer can get caught out by a scam, and if you’re unlucky enough to ever be in this situation there are a couple of things you can do.

Your first port of call should be to call your bank as soon as possible because it may be able to refund your money. If you paid the scammer with a debit card or with PayPal, your card provider may be able to (if it meets their criteria) ask the seller’s bank to refund the money. This is known as the Chargeback scheme. Payments made by debit card are eligible for the Chargeback scheme, however much you paid.

If you’ve paid using a credit card, you might be able to claim the money back under the Consumer Credit Act. This is known as a ‘Section 75’ claim. To qualify for this, the payment must be more than £100 but less than £30,000, other conditions may also apply.

Payments made by bank transfer may be able to be reimbursed by your bank. If you can’t get your money back and you think this is wrong, you can follow your bank’s official complaints process. If your complaint isn’t dealt with within eight weeks, or you get a final response letter, you can take your case to the financial ombudsman to see if they can help.

If you’ve handed over cash using a money transfer service, it’s unlikely you’ll get your money back. Even if you can’t get a refund, you can report the scam to the Citizens Advice Bureau for additional help.

If you believe a listing on Facebook Marketplace, or any online selling platform, is a scam, you should report the listing and the user through the website you’re using. It’s easy to report a potential scam through Facebook, and it can mean the fraudulent advert is taken down.

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If you want a hassle-free way to buy your next car, Carwow is a great place to go. You can browse hundreds of new and used models, and get great deals from our network of trusted dealers. You can even have the car delivered at a time and place to suit you.