What is the Zelle 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.

What is the Zelle Facebook Marketplace Scam?

If you’re selling something on Facebook Marketplace, beware of potential scammers acting as interested buyers. Keep reading to learn how people get scammed with Zelle so that you don’t fall victim to the same malicious activities.

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. There are several ways in which scammers have been taking advantage of this fact.

Overpaying for an Item

In a widespread Facebook Marketplace scam, the buyer sends a fraudulent check to the seller for an amount higher than the actual sale price. The scammers typically claim this is an error or the money to cover shipping expenses.

After that, they will try to convince the seller to refund this overpayment using Zelle. If the seller falls for it, they will send the scammers money only to have the initial check bounce.

Upgrading to a Business Account

A scammer can pretend to be interested in an item you’re selling and choose to pay using Zelle. Then, they will get your email address from the posting or via messages and send you a spoof email impersonating Zelle.

The email usually states that the buyer has sent the payment using a business account. As a result, the buyer had to pay an additional fee for the payment to go through. They go on to ask you to upgrade your account and refund the buyer for the supposed upgrade fee. The impending payment incentivizes you to do this as soon as possible.

The scam email will also pressure the seller to transfer the funds quickly if they want to receive the initial payment. In the flurry of activity, many people make the mistake of not checking the authenticity of the email or the validity of its claims.

Once the seller sends the extra funds back, they realize the scammer has never sent any money. Sadly, the scammer is long gone by then.

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 the 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:

  • Cash
  • 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:

  • Messenger desktop app
  • Messenger app for Android
  • Messenger app for iPhone

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.

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