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A garage sale 'buyer' used fake Zelle emails to scam NC woman

Garage sales & Facebook Marketplace are common places to sell things you don't want or need. Scammers are using fake emails to get money from your cash app.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Garage sales and Facebook Marketplace - both are common places to sell things you no longer want or need. It used to be cash-only, but with Cash App, Venmo, Zelle, and others, you can be paid instantly if both buyer and seller use the same app.

“They said they wanted to purchase the table set through Zelle and have their son come pick it up. I prefer to use Cash App because I'm familiar with that, but with Zelle, I wasn’t as familiar,” said Airreia.

She ended up signing up and registering for a Zelle account. She got the email and she shared it with the buyer so they could pay for the table.

That's when the emails started coming. The first one had the Zelle logo, the return address claims it's from zelleonlinepayments@gmail.com (which may look somewhat official, but it’s not) and the email tells her she needs to upgrade to a business account and pay the buyer money for some reason.

The second email includes the Zelle logo and a bank logo.

It confirms her account was upgraded and another required payment is required.

Two more emails come.

Mind you, all of this is happening while she is running a garage sale at her house, trying to figure out Zelle, and texting back and forth with the "people" buying the table.

“I was really frustrated at that point. It didn’t give you time to research, they're constantly messaging you. That's when I realized, when another email came through, that I'd been scammed. All the red flags were clear to me then, but by then, I'd already been scammed,” said Airreia.

She was out hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

She reported it to Zelle and her bank, but both had the same response.

Basically, fraud is when someone gained unauthorized access to your money, and you're typically able to get your money back. A scam is when you authorize a payment and if you authorize a payment, like in this case, you don't get your money back.

To be clear, Zelle does not have the same protections that your credit card or even your bank account has. Zelle transactions are just like if you had taken cash out of your account and given it to someone. Once it's out of your account, it's out. When you make a purchase with your credit card and it turns out to be a scam, the "charge" can be reversed. 

This kind of scam can happen to anyone. So, stop. Even when you think the buyer or seller might get away...stop. Take the time to look at the situation and even ask a trusted friend to size it up.


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