Monday 24 January 2022 8:10 AM UTC
By A Staff Reporter
PRESTON (Lancashire) Jan 24: A Keralite student from Preston, who attends the Uclan University, has lost £2050 to fraudsters who advertised a flat through Facebook Marketplace and took the money using a cloned page of the Trip Advisor website.
Santhi, who is doing Masters at Uclan, has been residing in Preston alongwith her husband and daughter. As their present rental period has expired they were looking to move out to another accommodation. It was then they found a flat being advertised on Facebook Marketplace.
Santhi thus made contacts with a Facebook Marketplace advertiser Edward Hart and enquired about a flat which he advertsied at 22 St Ignatius Square Preston PR1 1TT. Edward Hart replied stating that he was advertising the flat on behalf of a landlord and said that landlord will contact her.
Santhi received a reply from a Mariah Rovers, stating that she is the owner of 22 St Ignatius and the rent for the four bed house will be £600 including water, wifi, electricity, and parking. Santhi was all excited as the four bed would be ideal as there were two of her friends who have enrolled in a university in UK will be joining her.
Santhi was asked to pay two months rent of £600 (£1200) and a deposit of £850 with a total of £2,050 upfront to which Santhi agreed.
However, Mariah emailed Santhi stating that she is at present not in the country and is in Denmark due to personal reasons. This means she wont be able to be present for viewing or sign up. Therefore, she has made arrangements with TripAdvisor who will manage the rental for her property. As per Mariah’s email TripAdvisor has a “special department for long time rentals that offers her both safety and protection and therefore her viewing, sign ups and rent collection will all be managed by TripAdvisor”.
Santhi was advised by Mariah to pay the £2050 using a link which she will be receiving later on from TripAdvisor. Santhi requested for a viewing but Mariah advised her that as she is in Denmark and therefore she is unable to come down to show her around. Santhi was given an option where she could pay the full money in advance and she can move in and if she didn’t like the flat then she can get her money reimbursed through TripAdvisor
Santhi agreed to this and Mariah then advised Santhi that she will receive a link from TripAdvisor for her to make the payment.
Santhi received the link by email from TripAdvisor and paid the money and requested for viewing for 19th January.
Following the payment of the money Santhi found it difficult to make any further contacts with email she received from TripAdvisor.
Santhi kept requesting for the viewing of the flat but there was no reply to her emails. Santhi tried making contacts with Mariah and Edwart Hart who advertised the flat on Facebook Marketplace but with no luck.
Santhi then checked the link which she received for making the payment from TripAdvisor. She was shocked to see that the TripAdvisor page was cloned and once you are in the link you wont be able to go to the Home Page of Trip Advisor to confirm the authenticity of the website.
It was obvious that the fraudsters cloned an exact page of TripAdvisor and sent it to Santhi. Therefore, the money hasn’t gone to TripAdvisor but to the fraudster who had access to that link.
Santhi is pursuing all efforts to obtain the money back by liaising with Action Fraud, Police, Bank Management.
Scams and fraudulent activity on Facebook Marketplace are common
Scams and fraudulent activity on Facebook Marketplace have become more common of late, as the platform’s user base continues to grow each year. Facebook Marketplace scammer is simply after your money. However, there’s always the possibility that they’re trying to collect some of your personal information.
If you share any sensitive information with the scammer, such as your address, bank account or credit card information, or other identifying information, alert your bank and keep your eyes open for instances of identity theft.
One of the most significant issues with Facebook Marketplace is figuring out how to pay for items. If you’re not using Facebook Checkout—or Facebook Pay—you’re left with either paying with cash, check, or through a third-party app, all of which come with their benefits and potential downfalls.
PayPal is perhaps the most potentially dangerous option. Scammers will typically ask to pay this way, but shortly after the transaction begins, you’ll receive an email, allegedly from PayPal. However, scammers have now started to use TripAdvisor to dupe buyers.
How to Beat Facebook Marketplace Scams
Generally, Facebook Marketplace is a decent way to buy and sell any number of items. But, as with any online forum, there’s the potential for things to go wrong.
When it comes to getting scammed, keeping your eyes peeled and being proactive is the best form of protection.
Some of the best ways to avoid Facebook Marketplace scams include:
Only exchanging items/money in person. This gives the added benefit of making the exchange at the same time.
Make sure to meet somewhere public and well-lit. Letting others know about your meeting—or bringing them with you—is also advised.
Researching your item. Especially if you’re looking to buy a luxury or expensive item, knowing about the details can be particularly helpful.
Use your knowledge to inspect the item thoroughly when you meet up/when you receive it.
Don’t be afraid to quiz the seller beforehand! This could be a clue as to whether they’re a scammer.
Researching your seller. Check out as much of their Facebook page as possible to get a read on how real they are.
Asking for proof. This could be a receipt from the seller, an item serial number, or additional photos.
Sticking to known payment methods. This includes cash or if done at the time of receiving your item, third-party payment apps.
Beware of buyers who ask to pay with PayPal, gift cards, money orders, money wires, cashier’s checks, or other unusual methods.
Never paying before you receive your item. The caveat is if you’re utilizing Facebook Marketplace Checkout or Facebook Pay, which are both facilitated through the site and offer you some payment protection.
Of course, as always, the most helpful way to avoid a scam is to remember the age-old shopping advice: Let the buyer beware.
What to Do If You Fall For Facebook Marketplace Scams
If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of being scammed on Facebook Marketplace, there are a few things you should do depending on your situation:
Report the seller to Facebook: Tap on “Seller Info” on the product listing and then tap “Report.” Facebook will investigate the claim.
Report the scam to your bank, Venmo, PayPal, TripAdvisor or another app you used to transfer the money.
Change your passwords if you think you may have accidentally given this to them (e.g., via a phishing link).
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