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Buying or selling on Facebook marketplace? Experts offer tips on protecting yourself and your money when meeting

There are practical ways to ensure you and your money stay safe while shopping online and meeting sellers in-person.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Facebook Marketplace lures consumers in with great deals; one click can get you anything you want or need, from furniture and cookware to used cars and electronics.

But sometimes, the items listed can turn out to be fake. Now, Charlotte-area law enforcement agencies are now issuing warnings not just about scammers, but about meetings turning violent.

“It’s the wild wild west, anybody can post anything," said Tom Bartholomy, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau.

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Bartholomy says the Marketplace allows users to buy and sell seamlessly, but with that comes risk. 

“Online purchases are the number one scam in the country right now and have been for the last three years, really since the pandemic started,” he said. “People's buying patterns have shifted and that just opens the door for scammers to take advantage of us.”  

And as police across the metro area are sharing, the door is also open to dangerous encounters.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said a recent Facebook Marketplace transaction led to a shooting that critically injured one person at a Steele Creek shopping center on Oct. 4. Officers said the suspect met with a person to sell a Dodge Charger that he had listed, but instead pulled out a gun during the meeting. The would-be buyer tried to run away, but the suspect shot him in the stomach.

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“Whether you’re buying something or you’re selling something you really have to be cautious," Bartholomy said.  

Police agencies are also still offering the same warnings on how scammers can take the money and run without providing the goods. The Kannapolis Police Department recently shared a warning with the public about a Facebook user accepting payment for a children's playhouse, but never providing the product. 

Bartholomy offers some advice for when it comes time to get the thing you want.

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“Meet at the police station, that will throw off a potential thief or scammer real quick," he said. 

Other tips: buy local, don't pre-pay, and ensure you have the product in hand before you pay. If you do still get scammed, file a notice on Facebook so the social network can take the post down.

You can also visit the BBB Scam Tracker to share your experiences and warnings.

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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