Shopping Online: Avoid Buying from Classified Ads Sites

Although meant for readers in the Philippines, I think this tip is fairly universal.

Shopping for goods online is practically a necessity right now, for obvious reasons (if you don’t know why, where have you been?). And with Christmas coming up fast, even more so.

If you haven’t had much experience shopping online, here’s an important tip:

Avoid buying products from “classified ads” type sites like FaceBook Marketplace.

I’m specifically talking about transactions where the seller requires you to pay electronically upfront, then you sit back and wait for delivery.

That has SCAM written all over it.

Think about it: What do you do when the product never comes? You’re already out the bucks. The seller is likely no longer responding to your contact attempts. They also probably had you send the money to some cashapp destination where your electronic funds are converted to hard cash, so figuring who exactly picked up the cash will be a Herculean feat, and likely not even possible.

You’re screwed, basically.

This just came to mind while I participated briefly in an online discussion on FB. And here’s what I basically said, paraphrased:

The risk you take when you buy from an online seller through a classified ads site or service like FaceBook Marketplace is just simply very high. 

Can’t track down the sellers if they don’t want you to, that’s why. And scammers know it.

The traditional items sold through classified ads like cars, used items, etc., that you can physically inspect beforehand before any money exchanges hands, those are all fine. But now, a lot of virtual store-like operations and other vendors are requiring electronic payments first, then they’ll ship you what you purchased. Nope. I would not do that through classifieds. Deal with an actual site and identifiable entity for that, like Lazada, but definitely not through some seller on someplace like FaceBook Marketplace or Craigslist.

The point is with an identifiable traceable entity like Lazada, you have a recourse if things go bad. There is accountability.

That is very likely not the case with some random seller you encounter on FB Marketplace. If something goes wrong (non-delivery, for instance) and they start ghosting your contact attempts, even if you can theoretically “follow the money” to try and track them down, if they did their jobs right, that’ll likely just lead to a dead end. There will be no possible recourse. What do you think FaceBook can or will do about it? And if you can’t track the seller down, what makes you think law enforcement can?

When things go bad, you’ve got no out. The scammers know this, and you betcha they’re going to try and make that work to their benefit.

Of course, not all vendors and sellers on places like FaceBook Marketplace are scammers. But you definitely have to do your due diligence to ensure you’re dealing with a legit operation. Particularly if you’re required to prepay. That little thing alone is a red flag for me through a classifieds ads vendor. Not a problem through sites like Lazada (or Amazon, who I purchase regularly from in the US) — they’re accountable — but a seller you’ve never heard of on FaceBook Marketplace? I suggest you hold on tightly to your money.