Today I experienced someone (maybe two someone’s) attempting to defraud me. All we wanted to do was sell some really nice furniture before we moved. Now, I don’t really care if we sell it or not before we go. Here’s how it went…
I posted the photos on Facebook Marketplace. The first person who responded (Hilda) was slow to reply to my confirmation that the furniture was still available, asking if “she” was still interested. Meanwhile, a second “person” expressed interest, too. Once Hilda confirmed she wanted the pieces, she wanted to pay me via the Zelle app so I could take the posting down.
I only recently attached the Zelle app to one of my bank accounts, knowing it was a money application people used for such transactions. However, I’d never used it to know how it really operated. It seemed Hilda had all the answers to my confusion. But as I slowly made my way through what I thought was the correct process, her messages became more intense and pushy.
RED FLAGS went up everywhere in my body! I finally told her I was slow at this and to be patient. I received an email from Zelle that suggested a hold was placed on the money she paid because I had the wrong account type and it wasn’t compatible with her business account. In order to correct this, Hilda needed to pay an additional $500 to me, which I would then “reimburse” before the other $1,500 could clear my bank account.
She expressed concern about me being trustworthy. She asked if I was really going to pay back the extra $500 that was needed to get my account in compliance with the system. I assured her I was just new to Zelle. She recommended that I call the phone number in the email and even knew where on the email that phone number was located. Also, she wouldn’t call me because she was “at work” and couldn’t talk. Then I looked at the Zelle email address and saw it was a bogus Gmail account. More RED FLAGS!
I decided to call my local bank directly instead. I explained to the customer service person (small town branches allowed me to reach her quite quickly) what was happening. She checked my account. There was NO “pending” transaction behind the scenes.
She then explained how Zelle worked for her when she and her brother sent money back and forth – none of which had occurred during Hilda’s invisible transaction. No text from the bank or Zelle. No Zelle-business-email notifications. No phone number or email that could identify Hilda, either. She strongly suggested that I NOT go through with the transaction or find another way to obtain the money. (I wanted cash anyway; this was just too nerve-wracking.)
I went back to Messenger and sent Hilda a short note that this wasn’t going to work… it appeared to be fraud… and that she had a few minutes to agree to cash or I was moving on to the next buyer. Crickets. No response. The next buyer made similar gestures to want to pay up-front and then pick up the items later. I didn’t give him that option. Cash only, I told him. Again, crickets and no follow-up.
I’m angry for a couple of reasons. One, that people like this are scamming others. I’m sure they’re successful often enough to continue creating personas and honing their techniques to risk such larceny. Second, I’m a bit mad at myself that I went that far down the rabbit hole with Hilda and didn’t see the bogus email details earlier to stop the whole thing. I felt really stupid for a couple of hours. BUT… at least I made the phone call to the bank. It allowed me to stop much sooner with the second apparently bogus buyer, whoever it is. Experience does help. And to make sure I won’t forget, they both tried this on the same day!
I’m also putting additional warnings on my accounts, just to be certain enough blockades are in place.
I AM grateful that I hit the “PAUSE” button once my inner voice and nervous system started screaming and jumping throughout my body. I listened. I stopped. I sought proper advice from the right and trusted source. And I’d much rather have to load up this furniture (one more time) than be suckered into giving someone hundreds of dollars because I wanted to sell it rather than move it. The furniture will go eventually… just not today.