Facebook Marketplace is a popular and convenient place for people to buy and sell things so, of course, scammers are drawn to it. A new scam turning up on Facebook Marketplace starts when you list an item for more than a few hundred dollars. Shortly thereafter you are contacted by a scammer posing as a legitimate buyer who wants you to use Zelle, Venmo or any other P2P Service to pay you for the item. Peer to Peer Payment Payment Services (P2P) such a Zelle are used by many people to quickly and conveniently send money electronically from your credit card or bank account. Sending money through Zelle only requires you to enter the recipient’s phone number or email address.
Then the fun begins (for the scammer). You next receive an email that purports to have been sent by Zelle indicating that the buyer paid you through a Zelle “business account and that you need to upgrade your personal Zelle account to a business account in order to receive the payment from the scammer posing as the buyer. You are then told that in order to upgrade your account, the amount sent to you needs to be increased by $300. The scammer then tells you that he or she will gladly send you an additional $300 through Zelle in order to enable the transaction if you merely refund the excess payment to them through Zelle.
Of course, soon after refunding the $300, which was never paid by the scammer to begin with, the scam victim realizes he or she has just been scammed out of $300.
Unfortunately, Zelle has proven to be easily exploited by scammers and unlike scams targeting your credit cards directly, you may not have as much protection under the law to get your money back if you do get scammed. Although the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued guidelines last year indicating that all online money transfers such as this that were done as a scam should be reimbursed by the bank, many banks are refusing to refund money lost by the scam victims.
Following many complaints from scammed Zelle customers about the difficulty in getting their money back from their banks after being scammed, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Robert Menendez contacted EWS telling the company that it had to provide “appropriate redress to defrauded customers.”
Also, while Zelle has business accounts you don’t need to upgrade your account in order to receive a payment from a Zelle business account. Frankly, I don’t think anyone should use Zelle, Venmo or any of the other P2P services for anything other than sending small amounts to friends and family. The potential for scams is too great.
Finally, anytime someone sends you an overpayment for whatever reason and asks for you to send funds back, you should be skeptical as this is a common scam.
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