Advertisement

More than a third of Facebook Marketplace ads could be scams - with customers losing up to £60m in 2023, study finds

More than a third of adverts on Facebook Marketplace could be scams - with UK customers potentially losing nearly £60m on the platform in 2023, an investigation has found.

Facebook Marketplace allows people to buy and sell new and used items such as cars, watches, games consoles, air fryers, shoes and handbags.

The TSB retail banking chain, whose fraud team contacted 100 sellers on the online marketplace, calculated that UK buyers are losing just over £160,000 a day after making purchases on the site.

The team engaged with the seller in each case to determine whether the items were genuinely for sale or scams.

The team found 34% of the listings were fraudulent, with the sellers using tactics known to be commonly used by fraudsters.

These included directing the fraud experts, who they thought were buyers, to fake websites.

They also refused to allow the viewing of an item in person and demanded advanced fees.

TSB also discovered items advertised as "brand new" for hundreds of pounds less than their real retail price.

For example, an iPhone 13 was listed at just £84 - when the Apple website sells the model for £599.

On contacting the seller, a TSB fraud expert was directed to a scam website to make the payment.

The team also found a 2016 Audi Q3 being advertised for £6,000.

TSB says the seller refused to answer any questions and directed a fraud expert to an email address.

Upon searching the email address, the team discovered it had been reported as part of a car fraud scam on a community website in 2023.

The items most commonly associated with scams on Facebook Marketplace in 2023 were:

• Vehicle/vehicle parts - 21%
• Phone - 7%
• Shoes and clothing - 7%
• Games consoles and accessories - 7%
• Concert and festival tickets - 6%
• Small Electronics (Laptop, Cameras, Tables, Drones etc) - 5%
• Furniture - 5%
• Household electronics and appliances - 4%
• Service - 3%
• Building materials and tools - 3%

TSB calculated that £59,714,000 may have been lost by users of Facebook Marketplace in 2023.

They came to the figure by combining data from UK Finance, a trade association for the UK banking sector, with TSB internal data which shows 73% of its current purchase fraud cases relate to Facebook Marketplace.

Matt Hepburn, TSB's fraud spokesperson, said: "You wouldn't shop at a supermarket if a third of the items were stale or counterfeit - so the same should apply to Facebook Marketplace, where you have a one in three chance of being scammed when paying online.

"Social media companies really must act on their commitments under the government's Online Fraud Charter by urgently clearing up their platforms - removing scam adverts is a good first test."

Read more:
Online car scams soaring
Should you delete your Facebook?

TSB's fraud team carried out the investigation in November 2023.

A spokesperson from Meta, which owns Facebook, told Sky News: "With tens of millions of people using our apps daily in the UK, we recognise our important role in tackling the industry-wide issue of online purchase scams and have systems in place to block scams.

"Facebook Marketplace is a local meet-up and collection service so we don't facilitate payments or shipping, but scammers exploit this by taking conversations off our platforms where we can't enforce.

"We encourage our community to report scams immediately so we can take action and we'll continue equipping customers with knowledge to transact securely and avoid fraud on Marketplace."