Rental Scams and Disturbing Tactics Plague Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace rental scams surge, causing $145M in losses in 2023. Victims lured by fake listings, pressured to pay deposits before seeing properties. Authorities warn renters to verify listings, avoid high-pressure tactics.

Geeta Pillai
Updated On
New Update
Rental Scams and Disturbing Tactics Plague Facebook Marketplace

Rental Scams and Disturbing Tactics Plague Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace, a popular platform for buying, selling, and trading items locally, has become a hunting ground for scammers targeting renters with enticing offers and disturbing tactics. The New York Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection is warning New Yorkers about the rise in rental scams on the platform, which has seen over 9,500 real estate and rental scam complaints with losses exceeding $145 million in 2023 alone, according to the FBI.

Common rental scams on Facebook Marketplace involve fake listings for non-existent properties, where scammers pressure victims to put down a deposit before seeing the unit in person. When the victim arrives, they find the unit was never available. Other disturbing tactics include scammers posting rental units they do not actually own, fraudulent backdated notices to leave, and families organizing removalists only to discover someone else living in the property.

One victim, 30-year-old Sarah from Springfield Lakes, Queensland, rented a property for a bargain price of $115 per week due to a paperwork error by the owner. This led to a months-long battle to keep a roof over her head, as the owner tried to force her out using fraudulent tactics. Another victim, 28-year-old Ashleigh Connor from Merseyside, lost £850 to a rental scam on Facebook Marketplace after transferring a deposit and first month's rent for a property that turned out to be already rented.

Why this matters: The prevalence of rental scams on Facebook Marketplace highlights the need for better regulation, vetting procedures, and consumer protection measures on the platform. These scams can have a devastating impact on victims, causing financial losses, emotional distress, and housing insecurity.

To avoid falling victim to rental scams on Facebook Marketplace, the Division of Consumer Protection advises renters to verify the legitimacy of listings before sending any money, avoid high-pressure sales tactics, and never pay a deposit before physically seeing the rental unit and meeting the landlord in person. Victims can report scams through the online reporting system, and if the amount lost exceeds $5,000, they should call the police to file a report.

"Renters are often targeted by scammers who use enticing offers to steal their money," warns Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. "In 2023, the FBI received over 9,500 real estate/rental scam related complaints with losses of over $145 million. We are sharing these tips to help New Yorkers identify and avoid rental scams on Facebook Marketplace and prevent a costly mistake."

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook Marketplace sees rise in rental scams, with $145M in losses in 2023.
  • Scammers post fake listings, pressure victims for deposits before seeing property.
  • Victims face housing insecurity, financial losses, and emotional distress from scams.
  • Authorities advise verifying listings, avoiding high-pressure tactics, and meeting landlords.
  • Victims should report scams to authorities, especially if losses exceed $5,000.