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Sellers Beware of this Facebook Marketplace Scam

by on July 08, 2022
in News, Blog, Facebook, Shopping, Privacy :: 14 comments

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If you’re selling an expensive item on Facebook Marketplace, you need to be on alert for scammers. The Better Business Bureau has tracked a growing number of cases where scammers are trying to trick sellers into sending them money through Zelle and other peer-to-peer payment apps, like Venmo or CashApp. Fortunately, this scam is easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for.

How the Facebook Marketplace scam works

After listing your item on Facebook Marketplace, an interested buyer contacts you. They’ll ask questions and maybe even offer you more money than you were asking. You settle on a price – let’s say $750 – and the buyer requests to pay using Zelle or another peer-to-peer payment app. There’s nothing odd about that, so you accept.

Shortly after accepting, you receive an email from Zelle. Except it isn’t from Zelle – it’s from a spoofed account (see our story on how to tell if an email is spoofed) or copycat email address meant to look like a Zelle account. For instance, one of my professional colleagues, Kris McDonald of Little Tech Girl’s Digital Homestead, received her scam email from onlinezelleserverllc@gmail.com – clearly not from Zelle.

Screenshot of email to Kris McDonald with the subject line: $750 ON HOLD DUE TO ZELLE ACCOUNT LIMIT. The sender shows as Zelle Pay, but there is a stop sign with an exclamation mark to indicate possible phishing. Below the sender shows: From: Zelle Pay onlinezelleserverllc@gmail.com. There is a warning in the email field: Be careful with this message. You reported this message as phishing from your inbox.

Image credit: Kris McDonald/Techlicious

The fake Zelle email claims that the buyer’s payment is pending because your personal Zelle account is limited and you need to upgrade to a business account. Here’s where it gets really odd. The fake Zelle email instructs you to ask your buyer to send more money – let’s say $250 on top of the $750 you agreed upon – to upgrade your account to the minimum level for a business account. The fake Zelle email states that once your account shows $1,000 and you refund the buyer the $250, you’ll have access to your $750.

Screenshot of fake Zelle email with the text: Important notice: this payment has been withheld and filtered by our agents for further verification and has also been declared

Image credit: Kris McDonald/Techlicious

McDonald cut off the scammer at this point. However, the next step is that the buyer agrees to pay the additional $250 and you are sent another fake email confirming the money was sent to your Zelle account. When you send the buyer their $250 refund from your real Zelle account, you're now out the cash and the supposed buyer disappears.

The red flags in the Facebook Marketplace scam

  • Someone offers to pay you more than you’re asking for. Most buyers don’t bargain up the price.
  • An email from the payment service that’s not from your bank if it’s a Zelle transaction or the payment service (for example not from an email address from @zellepay.com for Zelle transactions, @cash.app for CashApp transactions, or @venmo.com for Venmo transactions).
  • An email from the payment service that says it is holding or declining payment. Even if the email address looks legitimate, check to see if it’s spoofed (see our instructions on how to tell if an email is spoofed). It's always best to login to your account directly to confirm anything you receive via email.
  • Bad grammar, misspelled words, or bizarre logic/reasoning in the contents of the email.
  • Requests for additional payment. While financial institutions may attach fees, you should never have to send money to receive payment.

[Image credit: iPhone 11 on white background showing Facebook Marketplace via Techlicious/Smartmockups]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.



Discussion loading

Beware of Marketplace Prompting you to show ad more groups!

From Joe Clouser on August 21, 2022 :: 4:05 am

I am a FB user and have used MarketPlace to sell or purchase about 20 items over the last 5 years. Days ago, I listed a used Utility Sink for sale with nice faucet for $150. It received little interest and I was motivated to move this item out of my garage. Today, I followed MarketPlace’s suggestion to display my ad with other groups. Before joining any other groups, my Messenger was buzzing with approximately 20 inquiries “is this still available”, all but 1 were female, they profess to want to stay save and ask if they can send me a secret 6 digit code, I said okay because I was anxious to sell and not thinking clearly. I get the 1st code and it is Google’s typical verification process and they say to not share with anyone else. Again, I foolishly gave about 3 different persons the code. They are all pushy and when my phone number did not work, they boldly tell you to provide another cell number. It was a nightmare after I learned that they are trying to scam your Google Voice phone number, to join the hordes of spam callers waiting to make your cell phone virtually useless. I took the steps to reclaim my Google Voice number even though I have never used it and did not realize it could be used to gain entry to my privacy and safety. Thanks facebook!

Reply

Watch Out Facebook Marketplace Sellers

From K Dowell on September 02, 2022 :: 1:50 am

Much like the man who posted above.. I listed a Refrigerator for Sale on FB Marketplace today 9/1/2022.
Right after I posted I got my first text “is this still available..” then the woman gave me a story that she was out of town on vacation, would return home in 5 days, if she paid me by Zelle right away, could I hold the Refrigerator and she would be back in town and pick it up on 9/5/2022. 
I asked her to call me, that perhaps I could hold it for her. She did not reply to my request but asked for my email address so she could send me a Zelle payment. That I should look at my email, sure enough there was a fake looking Zelle notice that a $125 (my asking price) was there ready for deposit, but since I didnt have a Zelle business account, I would have to set up a business account ... and more money was involved.  I realized that I was being scammed… and went back and stated that I was done with this conversation, that I knew I was being scammed.  I worried since they have my name, phone number and email address.. and my information could be used for other breaches. Glad to find this information on the scam. Thank you. And now I know the old saying “Buyer Beware, needs to include “Seller Beware.”

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Noticed the buyers set up a group

From Ken Williams on September 09, 2022 :: 12:52 pm

I have also had 2 types of scams in the last 2 days.  Someone wanted to prepay by Zelle and their wife would be picking it up later. The others have been the Google Voice scams. I did not fall for them because they sounded fishy but noticed something about each of the scammers…. They are mostly pretending to be women. They are not individuals messaging, they set up a group containing you and a “locked account” so you can’t see an actual person’s Facebook account. Next I noticed they are sending images of FB messages that look like a text message.  These things are all indications of these scams.

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Constant scams on fb marketplate

From Em on September 24, 2022 :: 10:45 am

I’ve been selling items to move and have incurred at least 10 attempted scams. I now know the signs to look for after reading several articles about it.

Be careful with anyone who asks for your phone number immediately, uses strange grammar/logic, or offers you full asking price right away then wants to send someone else to pick up.

FB - please DO SOMETHING about this!!

Reply

Scammers

From Troy Hendry on October 01, 2022 :: 7:51 pm

Scammers have taken over !  It’s almost impossible to sell on Facebook or Craigslist anymore..
The time wasted and harassment is ridiculous….
Please…can this not be stopped ?

Reply

I just had the "My wife will pick it up, I can pay with Zelle"

From MD on October 11, 2022 :: 8:46 pm

30 seconds after I post an item I get the normal first scammer.  Great grammar, asks legit questions, I almost think for a minute it’s real, then I get the “my wife will pick it up and I’ll pay you now with Zell” story.  When I tell him COD only all I get is a “bye” and I respond with “nice try”.  I almost find these things entertaining on their own.  It’s the ones that agree to meet with cash at a location and then never show up that drive me nuts.  I used to be willing to meet people half way but now it’s local pickup only.  I assume these are mostly just kids pranking people.  FB and CL need ways to report these that track back to parents.

That said I’ve had an overall good experience buying and selling on both CL and FB with only a few scammers and standups.

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Dealing With This Now

From R Lynn M on October 12, 2022 :: 12:56 pm

I have been dealing with this since posting a nice loft bed frame for sale.  Similar to what others have said, I have received a few different messages asking if they can prepay using Zelle and “their brother will pick it up”.  I told them no online payments and they pretty much ghosted out.  I ended up putting CASH ONLY in the Marketplace ad and the inquiries died down entirely.

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scammer Katerzyna Kanius on marketplace

From BF on October 13, 2022 :: 11:10 am

This just happened last night and this morning with venmo. Same story as everyone else is posting. After the $ was supposedly sent, she asked to see a screenshot of what I got. I compared it to another venmo I had received from my sister and saw there was no payment ID number listed among other red flags. When i asked if she was trying to scam me, the contacts ended abruptly.  Be careful out there!

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Miserable

From M Sawyer on October 18, 2022 :: 12:48 am

We live in remote Australia. Until FB Marketplace was unleashed on us, we had very little hassle selling things locally. Now we get “interested parties” from Russia and Bulgaria and the like. Facebook needs to get a handle on this and stop wasting our time.

Reply

Facebook Marketplace Scams

From Rick on November 14, 2022 :: 7:15 pm

I put a guitar up for sale, and got five of these responses. I think they’re reading from a script because it’s always the same game: They don’t haggle over the price, ask for no details regarding the items, in a hurry to close the deal, and it’s always their “brother” who will come to pick up the item. Then there’s the Zelle thing/business account nonsense. When you check their Facebook profile, there are usually pictures of children, pets, etc. But don’t believe it. My favorite part is when they always ask, “can I trust you to send the over- payment?”. These are world-class turds we’re talking about here.

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FB scam?

From Dave on November 23, 2022 :: 6:14 am

Selling a sofa bed I got an immediate ‘is this still available. The alleged buyer offered £20 over the asking price to secure, didn’t ask any other details of the item but offered a cash payment from the courier collection. The buyer wanted quite a few personal details. I politely pointed out that a simple COC transaction didn’t require him knowing anything about me except perhaps my name and obviously my address. Seeing as it’s a cash deal my question is what is his angle? I have since had two further buyers more or less the same

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AM I in Danger

From Sparkle Rod on November 30, 2022 :: 4:43 pm

Didn’t realize it was a scam until they money issue but I gave them my home address. Will they rob my house or come and kill us? I reported the scammers. I’m frightened.

Reply

No, I doubt you're in danger

From Josh Kirschner on December 01, 2022 :: 9:47 am

These people are purely monetary scammers and likely live nowhere near you, possibly not even in the same country. Once you know it’s a scam, they’ll move on to the next potential victim.

Reply

Another Scam to beware of on FB..

From Amy Richards on December 29, 2022 :: 5:52 pm

I posted a couch today on marketplace and had 4 almost immediate responses.  I started to interact with the first but it got strange.

“Does tomorrow pick up work for you” was immediate.
Then:
“My company just posted me to neighborhood due to job promotion, i am moving in soon but I want my movers to pick up the item at your convenient time so they can take to my new house.”
Then it went to this:
“I will have my company make out cheque from my relocating allowance.  You will just have it electronically via the bank app on your phone.  This is pretty and secure.  Once you confirm your then arrange for the pick up time.”
(lots of grammer errors and did not make sense).  I told them i would only take cash or e-transfer.  No response.
Next person.  EXACT SAME Messages as above.  Next 3 all the same.  I blocked them all.

Please beware of this latest scam.  They were all from Romania or Bulgaria, but who knows the truth from their profiles.

Reply

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