How can I avoid a rip-off on Facebook Marketplace?

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Stephen Frost/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Stephen Frost/Alamy

Within the space of a week I have, admittedly through my own naivety, been ripped off twice on Facebook Marketplace.

My daughter wanted a copy of the game The Last of Us for her PlayStation. I found a copy on the site, and contacted the seller. He asked for £25 paid by PayPal “friends and family”.

I refused at first but in the end relented. The game failed to arrive, and I have had no further contact. The account is still active despite me telling Facebook. The same thing happened to me again with a second purchase. What should I have done?

DH, by email

It is baffling that people will send money to people they don’t know purely on the basis they have posted something for sale on Facebook Marketplace.

The online small ads site has boomed in popularity, not least because, unlike eBay, it is free to list items. It has largely replaced small ads in local papers, and the idea is you pick it up in person and hand over the cash.

If the item is too far away, and the seller is offering to send it, then alarm bells should ring. Don’t send the money as a bank transfer, unless you are happy to take the risk of the item not arriving.

In my view, it is unrealistic to think that Facebook will intervene, and consumers should protect themselves.

The only way to do it safely is to use PayPal – but not through the friends and family option which is free to both parties – but using the “goods and services” option.

Legitimate sellers won’t mind but they may charge extra to cover the PayPal fee they face. If the item fails to arrive at your registered address you can claim a refund.

If that is not an option, don’t bother, however much of a bargain. Switch to eBay, or pick it up in person. This applies to Gumtree, too.

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