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Avoiding Payment App Scams

July 13, 2022


Ever since Amazon took off and Facebook launched its marketplace, it seems like the only way to shop is online. Scammers have taken notice and they are constantly trying new schemes to trick careless online shoppers out of money or their private information. The latest scam on the digital marketplace involves payment apps and phony buyers on the Facebook Marketplace who "need" you to update your Zelle, CashApp, or other digital wallet in order to accept money from them.

Here's how it works...

After listing a big-ticket item on the Facebook Marketplace, you are contacted by a buyer who wants to pay using a peer-to-peer payment app. While recent reports reference Zelle, this scam can involve any digital wallet like CashApp, Venmo, or any similar service.

Shortly after receiving a payment, you get an email supposedly from whichever app you used to transfer money. The email will claim the buyer paid via a "business account" and state that you need to upgrade your account to business status to accept the transfer. The "buyer" will offer to send more money to cover the costs of this upgrade as long as you promise to refund them, sending screenshots of their digital wallet with the money deducted from their account. Then the scammer will begin pressuring you into repaying them for these phony fees.

Here's the rub: the initial payment was never sent in the first place! You'll be out a few hundred dollars and the scammer will disappear.

How you avoid scams when selling online:

Don't trust anyone offering to overpay. Unless your item is particularly rare and receive multiple offers over the asking price, be wary of buyers offering you more than you're asking. People tend to shop online to save money, not overspend!

Check email addresses carefully. This goes for any email that you receive, but if you receive an email from a digital wallet company you use, be sure to double-check that the address is legitimate. Scammers will fake addresses that appear similar to official ones unless you look very closely.

Get to know your payment app's policies before use. If you receive a claim that you need to upgrade your account to accept payments, check the app's official website or contact customer service before spending or sending any money. Scammers often make up fake rules or policies to trick their victims.

When in doubt, back out. You are not obligated to accept an offer when selling on Facebook Marketplace. Keep an eye out for common red flags that you are being scammed and don't be afraid to block and/or report someone who you think might be trying to scam you or others.

Report scammers to Facebook Marketplace. If you spot a seller trying to pull off a scam or fall victim to one yourself, report them. Your report can help protect other users.

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