What is the Zelle Facebook Marketplace Scam?
Facebook introduced Marketplace as a new way to sell second-hand and homemade items. Of course, similar to Craigslist, this also opened the door for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers. Before you use Zelle on Facebook Marketplace, let’s learn about a successful scam that led many to fall prey to some nefarious conmen/conwomen.
What is the Zell Facebook Marketplace Scam?
Zelle, a popular peer-to-peer money transfer service, has become one of the go-to payment methods on Facebook Marketplace, thanks to an instant transaction system. Unfortunately, these transactions are also irreversible, making them perfect for various scams.
If you’re selling something on Facebook Marketplace, you must have a few street smarts to avoid getting scammed. Especially since Zelle won’t help you get your money back.
So here’s how the scam works (and please keep in mind Zelle isn’t the only peer-to-peer payment service vulnerable to this scam):
- You list an item for sale (usually a high-value item).
- A potential buyer reaches out to your wanting to purchase the item using Zelle (or another PTP payment service).
- The buyer sends you a payment, but you receive an email from Zelle informing you that you need to pay $300 to upgrade your account and transfer the funds.
- The buyer then sends you the fee because you’ll surely send it back to them after the upgrade (hopefully, by now, you’re catching onto the scam).
- The scammer will send you screenshots that the funds were sent.
- You’ll soon realize the whole thing was a farce, and the scammer never sent you any money at all.
According to the BBB, this scam works pretty well. The sellers experience immense pressure to refund the upgrade fees because the scammer is playing on the goodwill of innocent people.
Avoiding the Zelle Facebook Marketplace Scam
Zelle doesn’t offer a protection plan for transactions authorized by the account owner. Even if they recognize you’ve been persuaded or tricked into authorizing a payment, it’s unlikely you’ll get your money back. So, it’s best to be cautious. But how do you spot Facebook Marketplace or Zelle scams?
Don’t worry; we’ll break down some foolproof ways to avoid becoming some scammer’s next victim.
Overpaying for an Item
As you can see in the scam, it’s never a good idea to host transactions with buyers who are willing to overpay you. One of the first red flags you’ll notice with any Facebook Marketplace scam is when people are too nice and too accommodating. While it’s a sad reality, most people aren’t trusting enough to send you more money than you need to complete a transaction. They certainly won’t overpay you for an item.
If someone is a little more accommodating than the average buyer, it’s probably best to walk away from the sale. It’s better to wait on an honest buyer than to lose your money or your item to a scammer.
Upgrading to a Business Account
In general, you shouldn’t have to make any changes to your peer-to-peer payment accounts to accommodate a buyer. If someone sends you money from a business account and you can’t retrieve it, ask them to send it via PayPal or Venmo. But also, don’t feel bad. If the buyer is legitimate, they’ll figure out how to get you the money.
Next, scammers invest a lot of time into making emails (and, in this case, screenshots) look legitimate. No matter how legitimate one of these communications appears, it’s a good idea to have a few fail safes.
For example, in the Zell Facebook Marketplace scam, victims received emails from various email addresses, such as email@example.com. While that appears to be legitimate, it wasn’t. Quite honestly, the majority of emails coming from companies would have the title after the @ symbol. So, that’s a big clue.
If you have any doubts about a communication, it’s best to call or chat with a representative by calling the company’s customer service or official chat line (don’t use any links or numbers provided to you in the suspicious email).
Is Zelle Safe for Facebook Marketplace?
Zelle can be safely used on Facebook Marketplace, provided you know what the service offers and what it does not.
On Zelle, you can do the following:
- Instantly transfer funds from one account to another
- Immediately view the deposits and withdrawals through online banking
However, this money transfer system can’t do any of the following:
- Charge fees for receiving or sending funds
- Upgrade your account to a business account
In fact, Zelle doesn’t offer business accounts. Only your bank can offer various account types and decide which will be linked to your Zelle account.
If you’re still unsure, pay attention to the email you’ve supposedly received from Zelle. When an email is fake, it often contains poor grammar. Moreover, the sender’s domain name will be AOL or Gmail instead of Zelle.
So, if you stay vigilant, you’ll have no issues using Zelle to make and receive payments for items on Facebook Marketplace.
Can You Send Money Through Facebook Marketplace?
Facebook Marketplace doesn’t have a built-in payment mechanism. As a result, you have to arrange the payment using a third-party service.
Both parties should agree on which method to use. However, shady buyers often gravitate toward untraceable payment methods that allow them to get away with scamming.
Besides Zelle, scammers tend to insist on the following payment methods:
- Gift cards
- Venmo and similar apps
If you want to avoid getting scammed, we suggest going for payment processors who will investigate fraud claims on your behalf and provide transaction security. Reputable Facebook Marketplace traders often use debit cards or PayPal.
These payment services can also be used for making payments via Facebook Messenger. Although not exclusively targeted at the Marketplace, this can be a handy method of sending money as a buyer or requesting payments as a seller.
There are several requirements for using Messenger as a payment method:
- You must have an active Facebook account.
- You must be 18 or older.
- You must live in the U.S.
- The receiving party must live in the U.S.
If you meet these criteria, you can fund your payments using a U.S. bank-issued debit card or a PayPal account.
For a hassle-free process, you can use any Facebook Messenger version, including the following:
How People Get Scammed With Zelle
Most Zelle scams consist of manipulating people with false information and scare tactics. This way, scammers get them to authorize fraudulent money transfers.
Unfortunately, Zelle is well aware of these practices, but their policy dictates there’s nothing they can do if you’ve authorized a payment willingly. The service suggests contacting your bank or credit union if you believe you’ve been scammed, but there’s little even they can do about authorized payments. After all, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act protects consumers only in cases of unauthorized payments.
Although Facebook Marketplace scams have become prevalent, they aren’t the only way to get scammed with Zelle.
Confirming a Large Payment
If a scammer gets hold of your email or phone number, they can contact you pretending to be the bank. The initial contact usually comes via a text message or email asking you to confirm a large Zelle payment. Naturally, this payment is fake, so the receiver replies that they haven’t authorized any payments.
The next step is a phone call from the “bank” instructing you how to reverse these claims. Of course, this process includes transferring money directly to scammers.
This scam can be tricky, as the scammers typically spoof your bank’s phone number. Therefore, the caller ID matches the bank.
You can easily avoid this scam by checking your Zelle transaction history. Any payment made on your behalf will be shown there. If you want to be entirely sure, contact your bank directly and check the validity of these claims.
A Compromised Bank Account
Another common scam involves a message or an email stating that your bank account has been compromised and requires immediate action. If you reply, the scammers will follow up with a phone call and pretend to guide you through the process of securing your account. Again, this process will include transferring a specific amount of money directly to the fraudsters.
Unpaid Utility Bills
Banks aren’t the only institutions scammers like to imitate. Another common scam includes them masquerading as utility companies. They then proceed to inform you that you have failed to pay your utility bills and threaten to disconnect the service in question. The only way to immediately resolve this issue is to send them a Zelle payment, which, of course, turns out to be fraudulent.
Be Safe, Stay Alert
When it combines fun deals on Facebook Marketplace and the convenient payment service Zelle provides, your shopping experience can be a blast. That is, of course, if you stay aware of the tricks scammers tend to use to trick you out of money. You can always check with your bank or the Zelle app before making an irreversible decision to send money to a potential scammer.
Do you suspect someone’s tried to scam you on Facebook Marketplace? What did you do about it? Let us know in the comments section below.