Woman scammed out of hundreds of dollars while trying to sell pants on Facebook Marketplace

Scams can also escalate into violence, experts warn

WPVI logo
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Woman scammed while trying to sell pants online
Looking to sell clothes online? Beware of Zelle and Facebook Marketplace scams.

WASHINGTON -- Without the right precautions, trying to sell your stuff on Facebook Marketplace could wind up costing you money, and even turn dangerous, according to experts.

A Washington, D.C. woman, said cleaning out her closet quickly turned into sophisticated online fraud, and a big chunk of change gone.

Sam Silverman posted pants for sale on Facebook Marketplace, and said a buyer agreed to the price. Then, what looked like official correspondence from the payment app Zelle arrived in her inbox.

SEE ALSO | Catfish scheme: Texas man pleads guilty in $1.6M nationwide romance scam plot

"I figured I'd list them on Facebook marketplace, something I've done numerous times," Silverman said. "I was getting very legitimate looking emails."

The email said she needed to establish a Zelle business account and make a $300 initial transfer to the buyer, who would then credit her back the difference. Silverman said the stranger never sent back the money.

"Had I taken a deep breath, and you know, waited 15 minutes, maybe I still would have $300," she said.

"We've had reports on our scam tracker of items not being what they're supposed to be," said Melanie McGovern, a Better Business Bureau spokesperson. "In some cases, people sometimes don't feel safe selling and buying in such a public forum."

And, they warn the crimes can escalate to violence.

RELATED | How scammers used Zelle to clean out one man's bank account

In Brooklyn, New York, an off-duty policeman was shot when he met up with an alleged assailant over the weekend, reportedly to buy a car he arranged through Facebook Marketplace. Authorities arrested the suspect overnight. Charges are yet to be announced.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, another alleged Facebook Marketplace meet-up over a car resulted in the buyer being shot last October. The suspect was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and possession of stolen vehicle.