“Be wary of phony buyers who ‘need’ you to upgrade your Zelle or another digital wallet app to accept money from them,” the bureau notes in a scam alert from June. In this scam, the supposed “upgrade” involves unsuspecting sellers accepting a payment of what turns out to be nonexistent money and then sending a refund of your very real money.
In this scam, a buyer will offer to spot you hundreds of dollars to upgrade your Zelle account — but the money isn’t real.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), here’s how the scam works: A seller will list a big-ticket item on Facebook Marketplace. A scammer posing as a buyer offers to pay for that item with a peer-to-peer payment app like Zelle, CashApp, or Venmo. The seller then receives an email purportedly from the payment platform, claiming that the buyer paid with a business account and that the seller needs to upgrade their account to a business account to accept the transfer.
The buyer then offers to send the seller another $300 to initiate the upgrade on the condition that the seller sends the money back afterward. The seller does so, only to realize that the buyer never sent actual money and that the buyer has now scammed the seller out of $300.
The fake Zelle email “appeared legitimate,” said one scam victim.
One scam victim reported this ruse to the BBB’s Scam Tracker this May. “The scammer contacted me via Messenger, asking to purchase through the Zelle app,” they wrote. “I received an email from Zelle, firstname.lastname@example.org, explaining that the funds were waiting but the buyer had to send an additional $300 in order for my funds to be deposited because I needed an account upgrade since the transaction was over $600 and it required me to have a business account.”
The victim went on: “Typically, I do not fall for scams, however, this email from Zelle appeared legitimate. What set me off is I received another email from Zelle asking for $400 for a government fee for upgrading to a business account. The scammer showed me screenshots on his Zelle app where the money was taken from his account, and was very upset and persistent that I needed to pay him back for the fees that he incurred on my behalf.”
Don’t trust offers of overpayment, and check email addresses carefully, BBB says.
In its scam alert regarding this Facebook Marketplace/Zelle scam, the BBB offered tips for avoiding scams when selling online. For one, don’t trust buyers who are willing to overpay you and offering more than your asking price, the bureau says. Also, check email addresses to see if messages from payment apps are actually legitimate. You can also check the app’s official website or contact the app’s customer service department to see whether such outreaches are the real deal.