Warning over Facebook Marketplace scam – the three words to look out for

The three words often indicate deceitful intentions from a potential buyer.

A scam is doing the rounds on Facebook Marketplace and users are slowly catching on thanks to observant sellers noticing the use of three simple words during negotiations.

Aussies lost more than $3 billion to scammers last year, and the latest "flavour of the month" has been catching hopeful users off guard in their attempt to make some quick cash during the rise of cost of living.

What is the latest scam?

The latest online scam is taking place on Facebook marketplace and other online platforms that allow for goods to be bought and sold, such as Gumtree.

"This email scam targets sellers of goods on online platforms. A scammer using either a fake profile or a compromised profile on a platform will make an offer to purchase the goods for sale," an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

Two direct message chats can be seen showcasing the Facebook scam, with buyers in both incidences sharing they are 'out of town' or claiming they are not available for collection.
The latest Facebook scam includes a seller being sent a fraudulent PayID message or email, with many pushing for this electronic payment due to being 'out of town'. Source: Facebook

After an item is advertised online, scammers posed as buyers will direct message to express their interest but share they are unable to pay cash or collect the items in person because they are 'out of town', or something similar. This will act as an excuse for scammers to suggest for sellers to send money via Pay ID.

Once agreed, the scammers will inform the seller there is some kind of issue. The problem can be a variety of things but is usually presented in a way that places blame on the seller and is always 'resolved' by the seller sending money.

"These scammers often won't haggle over the price and will state they will send someone to pick up the goods without viewing them. They ask to pay by PayID and shortly after providing their PayID details, the seller receives an email from PayID requesting a payment to resolve an issue with the transaction."

For example, the seller will receive a message or email from 'Pay ID' to deposit X amount of money into their account to authenticate their account, with the promise the money and pending payment from the buyer will be received one actioned.

Scammers capitalise off 'social engineering', expert explains

Although easy to spot when the scam is explained, there are multiple reasons why this particular strategy of deceit is effective as confusion is at the heart of it.

"Making it more complicated and putting the onus of fault on the seller makes it quite confusing," Associate Professor of Regulation and Governance Dr Rob Nicholls told Yahoo. "People are eager to help and scammers know people are generally good and therefore likely to fall into a trap."

With the promise of money being dangled at the end of the confusion, Dr Nicholls explains sellers tend to "go along" with the instructions, especially as Pay ID has been branded safe by authorities — which is true.

"Pay ID is relatively new and banks say it is safe. It's one of the first times they [sellers] are using Pay ID so it's unfamiliar... they don't know."

The ACCC tweeted a warning in January after the 'Pay ID' scam was becoming prevalent online, with a 47.9 per cent increase in online shopping scams via social media in 2022.

The combination of confusion, unfamiliarly and "social engineering" results in sellers sending money which they ultimately lose.

Golden rules of buying and selling online

"If you're a seller, never pay any money, and if you're buying, make sure the money is going to the right place," Dr Nicholls said.

Sellers have no legitimate reason to pay money when selling items online, and it is best practice for buyers to verify the individual, via a phone call or sending an email, before sending their money.

"Be wary of anyone who is willing to pay maximum price and/or requesting third party collection without viewing a high value item for sale," the ACCC spokesperson said. "PayID is managed by your bank ... If you receive communication directly from PayID it is a scam."

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