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Scammers targeting Facebook Marketplace: sellers beware

As the old saying goes, "buyer beware," but this time the BBB is warning sellers to watch out for a new scam, especially if you use Facebook Marketplace.

MINNEAPOLIS — Facebook Marketplace is essentially a giant virtual garage sale.

Users can join various communities to try and sell whatever products they want, but like anything on the internet you have to watch out for scams because there is a new one out there right now. 

"Facebook Marketplace is the new place that people are getting scammed and it makes sense because you list an item you get a response, maybe a few responses, someone seems interested, they are ready to pay you what you are asking, you click on their profile, you see they have posts, you think 'oh great, they live locally this is a real person... this is great,'" said Nev Schulman, the host from the hit show Catfish, where he helps people caught in online romance scams. 

For the past year, Schulman has been working with the peer-to-peer payment app Zelle, educating people how to avoid all types of scams from romance to financial ones and this particular scam is impacting people right now in Minnesota. 

"All of a sudden you'll get an email that says and it looks like its from Zelle, and it says 'I tried to send you a payment, but it can't go through because you need to upgrade your account to a business account because it's over X amount of dollars,'" said Schulman. "Essentially they will try to get you to send them a fee to upgrade your account to allow the payment to go through."

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) if you fall for this trick and "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 bucks and the scammer will be gone.

"Anytime you get any sort of phone call, text message, or email from a power company, or a financial institution or whatever it might be asking you for information... that's always a big red flag," said Schulman.

Another red flag: People being pushy. Schulman says take your time

"You should never feel rushed, you can always take a few extra minutes to call and verify and make sure it's legit," said Schulman. 

Schulman says this doesn't just happen with Zelle, it happens on other peer-to-peer payment apps like CashApp and Venmo.

He adds that scammers aren't going away anytime soon, so the more we can educate ourselves about the red flags the better.

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Here are some more tips from the BBB on how to avoid online scams:

  • 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.

RELATED: Yes, scammers can use QR codes to steal your personal information

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