Facebook Marketplace scams are on the rise – including those involving rental housing – according to one local police department.
The Central Saanich Police Service released an alert Wednesday, Oct.4, warning residents about an uptick in Facebook Marketplace frauds in the past month.
According to the department, “sellers are requesting pre-authorized deposits and often using scare tactics to pressure people interested in the item or suite.”
In addition to Craigslist and Used.ca, Facebook Marketplace has become a go-to destination for people to buy and sell personal goods online.
Victoria resident Steven Smith said there has been no shortage of scams. He was selling a window air conditioner system and tried to set up a time and meeting place with an interested buyer.
After confirming the pickup address, the buyer explained that he was currently out of town on a business trip and that the movers he hired would come to his house to pick up the team for “porch pickup.”
Feeling suspicious, Smith asked for more information and the buyer exclaimed that he was having trouble with his e-transfer through his bank and that a cheque was his best option.
Smith responded: “Absolutely not. I am not falling for your little scam.”
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Many profiles are becoming more convincing, some going as far as taking pictures from influencers and posting profile pictures long periods apart to make the profile seem more legitimate. A scammer may ask you to deposit or send payment in advance to secure your spot. Sometimes, scammers will take off with your money and leave you with nothing in return.
The Central Saanich police department suggests buyers never agree to pay for an item before they receive it. If the seller continues pressuring you or implies you must pay in advance, it’s probably a scam.
A similar situation was experienced by Victoria resident Lisa Jackson, who bought a car that turned out to be a lemon.
She stumbled upon an ad that read, “2001 Ford Taurus, 1400 in new parts, including tires,”
Interested, she contacted the seller, and the car was driven to Victoria from Sooke.
“Two young guys showed me the car on the way to the insurance place. I thought I heard the (transmission) slip, commented and was double-tagged by these two guys in pressure and excuses. I sadly had given him the money upon insurance and was told it was a rebuild,” said Jackson.
She said that if she had known the car was a write-off from ICBC, she would not have touched it. After discovering leaking fluid from the bottom of the vehicle, she insisted on the owner’s assistance, who said they would help pay for the fix. After weeks of waiting, more problems were discovered in the car, so she inquired further.
“I was taken so badly when I backtracked and discovered his name was not on the transfer paper. That means he drove the car to me with illegal plates and no insurance, so this guy had nothing but ill will towards anyone who purchased that car. I am needlessly devastated and feeling very angry with myself for trusting the story and the young man that was selling,” wrote Jackson.
The seller later disappeared from Facebook and Jackson was blocked.
These situations highlight a concerning trend that has led to many people buying cars, items and even pets to the detriment of the buyer and, in some cases, the seller.
If you encounter a listing on Facebook that you think is a scam, the three-dot menu to the right has an option where you can report the listing. Taking screenshots of the conversation and profile is also a helpful way to identify scammers who may re-use the profile to recycle the same clandestine tactics.