Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Scams and Sellers

It is no secret that Chris and I are downsizing and selling many of our possessions in advance of our permanent relocation to Florida. I have principally been using Facebook Marketplace and have generally been successful. 

Yesterday I experienced something new and sinister. Scammers! Two very different scams, one that I successfully defended against and one which I didn't understand and got scammed--but was able to quickly repair the damage with no loss of money.

Very quickly after I posted and antique on line for sale I received two quick offers. Of course I was ecstatic and that clouded my view. I have a bias that scams involve money, but I learned yesterday that there are other valuable things, like my phone number, that scammers desire to control.  

Both scams were running simultaneously using Facebook Messenger. The first scammer told me that they needed to verify that I was real and that sent me a verification code to send back to them. I totally missed that it was a Google verification code and it allowed them to disconnect my phone from my account and gave them control, briefly. The scam continued as we conversed about payment and they reported they could not verify my phone and did I have another number. At that point I began to suspect something and did not give them another number. The email from Google confirmed the scam by indicating my phone was no longer in my account. I quickly followed the instructions to regain control of my phone in my Google account and closed the scam. I reported it to the FTC and to Facebook.

While this was going on I was also managing another scam. The person was allegedly sending me payment for the item using Zelle. I checked out Zelle, which I did not have, and uploaded the app on my phone. I think this is where I was able to determine quickly that I was the victim of a scam. The scammer sent me an email, using an address that looked like it was coming form Zellepay, but upon inspection was from a gmail account, saying they had sent me the money. The scammer was trying to convince me that the money had been sent to my account, but that it was being held up because I needed to upgrade my account to a business account by having them send more money to the account, which I would then refund to them. Problem is, my Zelle account app showed nothing of this and did not register that any money had been sent. I had Chris call Zelle while I was online with the scammer to confirm the scam. Amazingly, the scammer contacted me via Messenger audio and was trying to convince me that it was all legit. I finally had to block the Messenger account. I reported a phishing attempt to Gmail. 

The old adage about "Buyer beware" is now definitely "Buyer and Seller Beware."

Scammers are out there, lurking to get something for nothing.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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