How to get ripped off

I’ve sold a fair number of things on-line. I don’t quite know how many, but I have over 400 reviews on my eBay Profile. While eBay used to be hit-or-miss, it’s settled into a fairly reliable tool as long as the seller has a bunch of transactions. When Facebook and Paypal partnered, the finances for transactions stabilized.

Now Facebook Marketplace has come along. Facebook’s controls are (unsurprisingly) terrible, and payment technology has “improved”. Many banks now offer Zelle for direct money transfers, and scammers have locked onto it. If I post almost anything on FB Marketplace, I’m likely to get multiple hits. The sad part is they’re easy to pick out, as they almost all follow the same template:

  • “Hi, I’d like to buy your thing”
  • “Can I pay you in advance so you’ll hold it for me. “
  • “Can I use Zelle?”
  • “I’ve sent it to you (and you receive an email that appears to be from Zelle).”
  • “Oh, you don’t have a business account, can I trust you and pay you an extra $400 so the transaction will go through, and then have you refund the $400.”
  • “You (theoretically) “refund” then non-existing payment. They scamper off with your $400. “

They in turn have gotten much better at detecting when I’m screwing with them, so I have to be more subtle than I used to be. But they still aren’t very bright. The profile tends to be obviously from Eastern Europe (both the name, any photos, etc). Here’s a transcript from my most recent transaction:

Katarzyna
Still available?

You sent
Yes.

I’d be willing to take $300 for it if you can pick it up.
[By the time we got here, I’d already looked at the profile and decided they were in Eastern Europe]

Katarzyna
I have few questions

Does it have any faults ?

You sent
No, it’s in great shape. My parents just remodeled and replaced it with another model.

Katarzyna
Ok sounds good

Where are you located?

You sent
Shelby NC

Katarzyna
Okay I’ll be picking it up when I am off duty by tomorrow but I’ll be making payment now So you can mark it as sold and stop accepting new offers?

You sent
ok, I can do that.

Katarzyna
Ok , Do you have zelle for payments?

You sent
I think I’ve used it before.

Katarzyna
Alright send me your zelle information

You sent
Let me go get it – one sec
I think it’s tied to my bank account.

Katarzyna replied to you
Yes mine as well

You sent
Yup, here it is https://www.firsthorizon.com/Personal/Products-and-Services/Digital-Banking-Category/Send-Money/Zelle-FAQs

Katarzyna
I don’t understand links , can i get your zelle email and phone number to pay

You sent
yes, I’m trying to find it – one sec

Katarzyna
Go to zelle section in your bank application, check on the settings profile you would see your zelle email and phone number

You sent
my zelle email is zll@corwyn.net

Katarzyna replied to you
Do you have access to this email?

You sent
yes

Katarzyna
Alright sending payment rn

You sent
If I recall you’ll sent the money and I’ll get an email

Katarzyna replied to you
Yes sir

You sent
I don’t have an email? Let me go check my spam folder

Katarzyna
What email do you use to receive mail?

You sent
zll@corwyn.net

Katarzyna
zl@corwyn.net
This?

You sent
(my mail is weird, each thing has it’s own email)
yes
[this should have warned them off, but apparently not]

Katarzyna
Alright

You sent
Let me know when you’ve sent it

Katarzyna
I have successfully sent payment’s check your email inbox to confirm

Dear customer,
You have a pending payment of $300.00 USD.
We should be crediting your account now but we noticed the status of your Zelle account has been limited and not a business account, so it cannot be credited. An email has been sent to the buyer as well regarding the transaction, We need you to contact the buyer to send additional amount of $400.00 USD to your Zelle account so it can be expanded and change to a business account and you will be credited immediately with $700.00 USD into your account.
**PLEASE NOTE**You will receive a “CONFIRMATION EMAIL” from Zelle®️ Team informing you that the funds has been credited into your account. Questions? Thank you for using Zelle.Copyright. © 2017-2022 Zelle. All right reserved.

You sent
Great! What time would you like to come by to pick it up tomorrow.

Katarzyna
6pm tomorrow
Confirm sir

You sent
that’s great for me – thanks
See you then.

Katarzyna replied to themself
?
Have you gotten it

You sent
I have an email from Zelle Pay, so we should be all set.
I’ll see you tomorrow.

Katarzyna replied to you
Send a screenshot of what you got sir
??

You sent
I don’t understand. I got your payment

Katarzyna
It’s say pending on my end that’s why i asked you to send a screenshot of what you got sir
[I, of course, know that]

You sent
It probably just takes a while to go through.

Katarzyna
I understand

You sent
Give it a few minutes and check again.

Katarzyna
Open the message you got hold volume button and power button to screenshot it

Because I got an email from zelle as well

You sent
I’m on a PC, not a phone.
[This type of answer tends to make things go a bit awry which is, of course, my goal.]
I don’t know how to screenshot it. But I believe you that it went through.

Katarzyna
Use your phone to snap the message

I received an email from zelle that your account isn’t business so you can’t be credited so i am required to send in an additional of $400USD to expand your account limit to business so you can get credited can i trust you that once i send the additional payment you’ll refund me back immediately can i trust

You sent
I haven’t sen that before, but of course I will

Katarzyna
Alright sending the additional payments

I’ve successfully sent out the additional payment check your email inbox to confirm

[Yup, a second email]

You have received an additional payment of $400.00 Requirements to get your funds released for both parties protection:
*Contact your sender and get their information to make the refund of $400.00.*Take a screenshot of the refund being successfully sent and reply to this email with it, so we can verify and release the total sum of $700.00. To you immediately.Note: This transaction have been secured with our Expedited security team,so we are requiring you to REFUND the $400.00. before your pending balance can be released into your account, the refund will not be available to your sender until you get the total payment of $700.00.

ContactPrivacyLegal To learn more, go to reply back to this confirmation email.Have a problem? email usMon. – Sun., 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET,except Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Days.Early Warning Services, LLC16552 N. 90th Street,Scottsdale, AZ 85260 USA

You sent
ok one minute

Katarzyna
Okay sir
Confirmed?

You sent
Yup, I got it.

Katarzyna
What does it says

You sent
Additional payment received.

Katarzyna
Open up the message
And read the content

?? Or use your phone to take a picture of it so i can understand

You sent
I have received payment

Katarzyna
I got an email that states that the buyer has to refund the $400 additional payments sent to upgrade your zelle to a business zelle and you get credited fully $700.

You sent
sure, no problem.

Katarzyna
So you would need my zelle information to place the refund and send a screenshot to zelle

You sent
OK, send me your zelle information.

Katarzyna
zfbphhniqn@hotmail.com
[Right. Message off to hotmail to deactivate the clearly junk account]

JAMES RAPHAEL
Once you send payment use your phone to take a photo of the payments sir

You sent
Who is James?

Katarzyna
And send it to back zelle so $700 can drop into your account, okay
My husband, we use a joint account

You sent
Ok
Ok I replied to the email from zelle

Katarzyna
Alright
Have you sent the refund?

You sent
Not yet, one minute making dinner

Katarzyna
Okay sir

You sent
I can’t figure out how to issue a refund, I’ll just write you a check when you come to pick up the oven
See you tomorrow!

Katarzyna replied to you
No
Refunding back the $400 won’t take you a mins
All you have to do is to go to your banking app click on the Zelle icon on it says send money with Zelle input the email as new recipient input the refund amount click on send review and send them take a clear screenshot of where it says sent and reply back to Zelle for verification
So can you do that and send a screenshot so I can put you thru

You sent
that’s too complicated. I’ll just write you a check tomorrow.

Katarzyna replied to you

Can I call you
[hah! No, I’m not giving you my phone number]
If you go thru the instructions from zelle the refund should be sent to my zelle information

You sent
it’s too late – if the phone rings it will wake my wife.
But if a check is a problem, I’ll just hand you cash tomorrow.

Katarzyna replied to you
No bro
[Bro? The profile image is a womain in her mid-50s. I think we’re starting to crack]
I’ll put you through
If I ask,Do you’ve $400 from your personal pocket to make the refund
??
??

You sent
Yes, I’ll do it tomorrow. No worries.

Katarzyna
Ok
A refund can be sent within a mins

You sent
I’ll have it when you pick up the stove.

Katarzyna replied to you
No bro 🤦‍♂️
Log into your banking app

You sent
yeah, but I can’t find the option.
If you don’t want the stove, I’ll just refund your money.
[See, a bright person here would have asked that I refund all $700, instead of sticking with the $400. Go big or go home, right?]

Katarzyna replied to you
Are you in your banking app

You sent
Anyway, good night, see you tomorrow.

Katarzyna
Follow up this instructions sir
You’re making this hard
[Shocking]
Sending won’t take you up to 3mins

You sent
I can’t figure it out, but we can solve tomorrow.

Katarzyna replied to you
What can’t you figure out sir
Log into your banking app

You sent
Look I’m not good with computers.

Katarzyna replied to you
Ohh I see
Do you’ve a kids
[This is hilarious!]

You sent
they’re in bed.

Katarzyna
Ok
What time will you be up
So we can get this fixed
You can do this but you’re making it feel hard for yourself sir🤦‍♂️
It making me feel hard for my money
[Definitely not a native speaker]

You sent
I won’t have time in the morning. I have to get to work and the kids off to church.

Katarzyna replied to you
Ok
When can you get this done
Are you close to Walmart
[Aha! A different attempt to get my money – we’re switching from Zelle to gift cards]

You sent
tomorrow when you arrive.
There’s a walmart on the other side of town – why?

Katarzyna
No not when I arrive
Can you head to Walmart
You sent
no they’re closed.

Katarzyna
I know
Tomorrow!

You sent
Do you want to meet me at the walmart ?

Katarzyna
You got $400 in cash right

You sent
I’ll pick it up at the ATM tomorrow.

Katarzyna
Ok
But you got $400 in cash right

You sent
I don’t have it in hand but I’ll get it before you get here.

Katarzyna
Ok
You’ll get to the atm and get $400 out
Lmk once you got that done okay

You sent
It will be on my way home from work

Katarzyna replied to you
What time
This is getting so hilarious
[You don’t know the half of it.]

You sent
Proably 5:45, just before I meet you at 6
Actually, if we could push the pickup to 7 that would be better for me.

Katarzyna replied to you
Do I have your words you’ll get me back my $400
You’re making this so much 🤦‍♂️

You sent
Absolutely.
Will you need help loading the stove?

Katarzyna
Yes
Can you get me a steam wallet card at Walmart
Worth Of $400

You sent
Ok, I can get my son to help load.

Katarzyna replied to you
Ok
You don’t Load it
All you do is get the card and send the code
Steam wallet card

You sent
The walmart is out of the way, the ATM is on my way home.

No I can’t help load it-it’s too heavy for me.

Katarzyna replied to you
Ok

You sent
Good, that’s settled. See you tomorrow. Night!

Katarzyna replied to themself
You’ll get a steam wallet card of $400
Get that at Walmart
Is that okay with you!

You haven’t responded
You sent
I’m trying to get to bed – it’s late. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night.

and I went to bed.

But before I went to bed, I’d looked up the WHOIS record for their domain (customer_service@zellepaylogs.com), registered with Google. A nslookup tells me they’re using Google for their (main) server as well.  Messages/fraud reports sent to Google, Hotmail, and Facebook, Zelle, and the FBI IC3 complain line. Likely won’t make any difference, but getting rid of their domain registration will cost them real money to set back up.

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