As Facebook continues to attempt to become a facet in every part of our lives, a previous feature re-introduced last year has begun to become widely popular, Facebook Marketplace. Since the inception of Facebook, numerous groups across Facebook have offered items for sale. A quick search on Facebook of classifieds in any city or town will lead you to numerous groups offering cars, furniture, toys, and other items for sale. Across Facebook, more than 450 million people were visiting these groups each month. Facebook saw the potential in these stats and relaunched Facebook Marketplace in October 2016.
Facebook Marketplace took what used to be available in these for sale groups and streamlined the process. Rather than searching through numerous groups, scrolling through that groups posts, a user can search for the exact item they want, or see what’s for sale within a certain mile radius of their choosing. If interested in an item, the member
sends a message over Facebook messenger and the transaction details are conducted through the secure messaging app. The marketplace is geared towards the local community and most transactions are conducted face to face.
While these types of marketplaces have existed at other sites such as craigslist and Ebay; Facebook Marketplace is marketing itself as the smarter and safer market for the 21st century. Having the ability to view an individual’s profile that is involved in the transaction does provide some sense of security to the transaction. However, one big difference is Facebook doesn’t facilitate the transaction, such as with EBay. Transactions occur much like Craigslist, and that creates potential issues.
Since the re-launch, there have been multiple instances of fraud, robbery, and violence linked to transactions that take place on Facebook Marketplace. In December 2016, UK law enforcement agencies issued a widespread alert about not using bank transfers to conduct the transactions. While most would think this is a clear warning sign, did having the ability to see a profile of an individual create that sense that the bank transfer would be ok?
In Los Angeles, scammers recently stole $25k worth of camera gear from 20 known individuals using Facebook marketplace. Using the same alias Facebook profile, the scammers contacted each seller through the Marketplace and offered to pay through the payment site/app Venmo. Rather than pay all at once, the scammer sent multiple transactions that eventually equaled the total price. An individual would then come and pick up the camera gear. Once the seller attempted to transfer the Venmo funds to their bank account, they found the Venmo payments were fraudulent and the account was frozen. The seller’s equipment was given away. The scammers were using stolen debit and credit cards, and making small payments under $100 to prevent and fraud alerts on the account.
In August, a Marketplace transaction in Grand Rapids, MI quickly turned violent after the individual that was looking to buy a vehicle was held at gunpoint and robbed of his personal items. The victims then chased the robbery suspects in his vehicle, eventually running one of them over. One of the suspects weapons was accidentally discharged with no injuries. This same type of robbery occurred in Milwaukee, WI where a man looking to buy a moped was held at gunpoint and robbed of $150. The victim stated, “I think I let my guard down this time because it was Facebook.”
As many law enforcement agencies use Craigslist and EBay to search for stolen goods, Facebook Marketplace needs to be added to the list. In July, a Memphis couple discovered items stolen from their apartment were for sale on Facebook Marketplace. Pictures of the items even displayed the victims Xbox username on the TV screen. After police were notified and a controlled buy was set up, the individuals were arrested.
Facebook Marketplace is a great feature for the 1 billion plus users of Facebook to utilize, but criminals are capitalizing on the false sense of security the transactions provide. It is very easy to create a fake Facebook profile and sell fake or stolen items in the marketplace. While the general public is leery of transactions on Craigslist and know most of the warning signs, technology is enabling criminals to create a “trusted” process for transactions.
Facebook Marketplace needs to be on the radar of all law enforcement agencies working these types of crime. Whether it’s robbery, fraud, drug trafficking, these crimes are occurring on the Marketplace in small, yet significant numbers. Contact us today to schedule your Facebook class and learn more about Facebook Marketplace.