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Watch out for new scam involving Facebook Marketplace, Zelle

CHARLOTTE — Many say Facebook Marketplace is a great way to buy and sell items locally.

Kathy Shepler certainly thinks so, and says she went to sell two chairs on the site.

“I got a hit right away. Somebody said they were interested,” she told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

Shepler said that person appeared to be a woman, who told her that she had sent money to Shepler through Zelle. However, Shepler says the woman said it didn’t go through because Shepler needed to “upgrade” her Zelle account, and that Shepler would need to pay $300 to do that.

“I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to put $300 in it and she said, ‘OK, I really want the chairs so I’ll do it and you can pay me back,’” Shepler said.

That’s exactly where the scam comes in -- the scammer wants your money.

“And I’m sure a lot of people fall for it,” she said.

Other people in the Charlotte area posted similar stories on social media recently.

One said, “I almost got stung. She seemed so insistent and convincing.” Another person emailed Stoogenke that he did get stung and even sent the scammer this text: “Please give me my money back. $400.00. You fooled me completely.”

Shepler said she didn’t fall for it. However, she wants to warn others, and -- at last check -- still had those chairs for sale if any legitimate buyer is interested.

Remember two things to avoid this scam:

  • You can’t upgrade your Zelle account. There’s no such thing.
  • Zelle won’t ever email you about a Facebook Marketplace transaction. Even if it has the Zelle logo, it is always fake.

The company that runs Zelle, Early Warning Services, says:

“When selling an item on Facebook Marketplace, consumers should be on the lookout for scammers. The exact mechanics of the scam varies, but in each case, the buyer (aka scammer) convinces the seller to send money via Zelle in order to ‘upgrade’ their Zelle account to release a pending payment.

It’s important to note that it is not possible to ‘upgrade’ your Zelle account. This is often followed by an official looking email purporting to be from Zelle and may even contain the Zelle logo. Consumers should know that Zelle will never send you an email regarding Facebook Marketplace or other online sales platform transactions. Any email appearing to be from Zelle related to online buying/selling is fake.”

Here are a few other tips:

  • Be wary of quick responses and fast payment promises. If you post an item and you immediately get contacted with an offer to pay full price (or higher), consider giving it at least 24 hours to get other offers. Most people will ask for more information about the item or to see it in person first before offering to pay on the spot.
  • Just because it looks professionally written, doesn’t mean it is. Scammers are more sophisticated than ever, so never rely on just grammatical errors to spot a scam.
  • Urgency is almost always a red flag. If a potential buyer is urging you for your personal information and to pay you ASAP, take a second to evaluate the situation. If they push to get your phone number or email to make a digital payment, this usually means it’s a scam.
  • Zelle will never send you an email regarding Facebook Marketplace. Examine the email address and look for phonies. Zelle will never send an email from gmail.com or other free email services.

The Better Business Bureau recently issued a warning about this scam as well and shared the following general advice about 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.

(WATCH BELOW: Why scammers choose this specific amount for Zelle con)

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