How to spot a fake Facebook Marketplace ad

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A warning tonight from an East Tennessee real estate agent – beware of fake ads on Facebook Marketplace.

The site is a community oriented service to bring regular people together to buy and sell. But, if you don’t know what to look for, Facebook Marketplace can also be a scammer’s paradise.

A fake ad almost cost two families close to $4,000.

Facebook Marketplace has been around for more than a decade, it’s a very popular site for realtors who want to stay competitive.

On Facebook Marketplace, you can find apartments and houses for rent, as well as houses for sale. It doesn’t have a built-in payment system, and it requires and it requires that you have a Facebook profile to use the service.

But, snapping a photo, posting and selling are so simple that scammers are taking advantage of people who aren’t aware of fake ads.

Deanna Rader called because she was upset by what could have happened to unsuspecting families. She’s the agent for this ready-to-move in house that’s for sale in East Knoxville. A few days ago she got a call from a concerned victim.

“When they drove by the house, they wanted to know if they could come and look at the house for rent,” Rader said. “They had seen it on Facebook Marketplace for 900 dollars a month.”

The house is for sale – not for rent.

Claudia Stallings is VP of Residential Sales for Coldwell Banker, Wallace and Wallace, Realtors. She says images of the house listed by Mrs. Rader were cloned by a scammer who claimed he was renting the place.

“Typically, when see scams like this they are asking a very reasonable rent rate to encourage more phone calls,” Stallings said.

She says the fake rental ad appeared on Facebook Marketplace for a couple of days before it was taken down. With more than 90% of buyers using the internet to find homes — realtors have to market a home online.

“That makes the ability to pick up images of the house and to present it as if these photos were your own perhaps a little bit easier,” Stallings said.

She shares a text message sent by the scammer claimed he’s out of state and has the key. He writes “unfortunately there will no in-house tour of the home, so you’ll have to peak through the windows.”

“They’re getting rent, they’re getting deposits,” Stallings said. “Then they leave that person who has sent that to them high and dry. They never return phone calls, they never actually produce keys because this is not actually their house to rent.”

Several people called Deanna Rader about renting the home. She quickly told them about the hoax.

“It’s a sad situation that some people fall prey to this. I’ve had two callers say they almost sent the money in. The scammer was asking for $1,850 to send in to get the keys to the house to rent it,” Rader said.

Here are some red flags:

  • The would-be owner is out of state
  • Because the owner has the key.
  • You won’t be able to see inside the house.
  • You are told to wire your money and you’ll be sent the key.
  • All correspondence is by text.

Legitimate, honest deals can be found on Facebook Marketplace. But when it comes to buying a house — work with a professional, a licensed real estate agent.

“Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, anywhere the general public doesn’t have to have a real estate license and you can list your own property, that’s when consumers should be extra aware when making contact,” Stallings said.

So, how do you know what to look for?

If you are buying on Facebook Marketplace, make sure that the seller has a full Facebook profile.

If they only have a couple of pictures, no picture at all, no friends, or if the profile was created last week – forget about it.

If you come across a fishy listing, report it to Facebook Marketplace. Once reported, a scam posting is usually taken down quickly.

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