Car-Selling Platform Facebook Marketplace Is Popular, but Scammers Like It ,Too

ProPublica report calls Facebook Marketplace convenient but not fraud-free. We detail the security measures you can count on and how to keep yourself safe there, on eBay, and on Craigslist.

for sale sign in car

It’s not easy to keep a billion people following the rules. That’s the problem with Facebook Marketplace, which now has that many people on the site buying and selling goods. But success is no excuse for endangering users, which brings us to ProPublica’s recent research on the social media giant and how Facebook allowed thousands of Marketplace listings that break the company’s own rules, risking users’ safety.

Obviously, thousands of people have safely sold their car or truck using sites like Marketplace or eBay or Craigslist. And thousands more will. But not everyone, as a 2015 story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. There, robbers used Craigslist to offer deals on vehicles including a 2011 Honda Accord and a 2007 Dodge Caliber but requested the buyers show up with cash. Then, when they did, the “sellers” instead robbed the interested buyers. Stories like these are not hard to find, and may help encourage sellers and buyers to learn what safety measures are in place—and which actions it makes sense to take on their own—when car dealing online.

facebook marketplace listings

ProPublica notes that Facebook uses a few different methods to keep Marketplace safe and reliable. First, there is anti-fraud software to detect scams, but since this isn’t the most accurate tech, Facebook also uses around 400 Accenture employees to “respond to user complaints and to review listings flagged by the software,” ProPublica said. One of the problems here is that these employees were given access to Facebook Messenger inboxes, which led to them spying on people. A Facebook spokesperson told ProPublica this access has been changed. Another issue is that these 400 workers each need to deal with around 600 complaints or help requests a day, giving them less than a minute to deal with each one. ProPublica published its own guide giving tips to “avoid being scammed” on the Marketplace that’s worth a look.

Craigslist and eBay, which have been in the classified sales game longer than Facebook, seem to have better security measures in place. eBay offers an escrow service and will offer refunds if the sale ends up being fraudulent. Craigslist now also charges people to list a car for sale, and that has lowered the amount of fraud happening on the site, experts told ProPublica.

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