Watch out when selling big-ticket items on Facebook Marketplace. Scammers have a new trick up their sleeves! According to BBB Scam Tracker reports, be wary of phony buyers who “need” you to upgrade your Zelle or another digital wallet app to accept money from them.
How the scam works
You list a big-ticket item worth several hundred dollars on Facebook Marketplace. You are quickly contacted by a buyer who wants to pay using a peer-to-peer payment app. Recent BBB Scam Tracker reports reference Zelle, but this scam could also work with CashApp, Venmo (a BBB Accredited Business), or another similar service.
Shortly after receiving the payment, you get an email, supposedly from Zelle. Allegedly, the buyer paid via a Zelle “business account.” Now, you also need to upgrade your account to business status to accept the transfer. To do so, the buyer will need to send you another $300. They are happy to do you a favor – if you promise to refund them.
One scam victim reported this experience: “I received an email from email@example.com explaining that the funds were waiting, but the buyer had to send an additional $300 in order to upgrade my account because the transaction was over $600, and I would need a business account.” The scammer then “sent” the extra funds and included screenshots of his Zelle app with the money deducted from his account. Then, he started pressuring the victim into repaying him: “He was very upset and persistent that I needed to pay him back for the fees that he incurred on my behalf.”
If you refund the scammer, you’ll quickly realize that they never sent you any money in the first place. You’ll be out a few hundred dollars, and the scammer will disappear.
How to avoid scams when selling online:
- Don’t trust anyone willing to overpay you. Unless your item is rare and you receive multiple offers, be wary of buyers offering you more than your asking price. Consider it a red flag if someone is quick to send you more money than you are asking.
- Check email addresses carefully. If you seem to have received an email from Zelle or another payment app, double-check the email address. Scammers use fake email addresses that are similar to official ones.
- Get to know payment app policies before you use them. If someone claims you need a business account to accept payments, check the app’s official website or contact customer service to find out if the claim is true. Scammers often make up fake policies to trick their victims.
- Report scams to Facebook Marketplace. If you spot a seller trying to pull off a scam, report them. Your report can help protect other unsuspecting sellers.
For more information
Read the BBB Tip: Selling used items online and the BBB Scam Alert on overpayment scams for more ways to stay safe when selling items online.
Report suspicious activity to Facebook and BBB.org/ScamTracker, even if you didn’t fall for the scam.
Stay one step ahead of scammers by subscribing to BBB’s weekly Scam Alert emails.