Scams Spike on Facebook, Zelle, PayPal — What You Need to Know

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It’s no secret that phone calls, text messages, emails and websites are a minefield of frauds and scams — yet millions of Americans are victimized every year, and the numbers keep rising. In 2021 alone, nearly 2.8 million people filed fraud complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, CNBC reported. That was up 70% from the previous year and a new annual record.

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If recent trends are any indication, the fraud numbers will be similarly grim when the 2022 figures come in. A new report from data analysis and background check company BeenVerified found a spike in scams involving Facebook Marketplace and P2P cash transfer apps such as Zelle and PayPal over the past year. There has also been a big increase in crypto and romance scammers who use WhatsApp.

The BeenVerified report was released last month and was based on an analysis of more than 165,000 scam calls and texts reported over the past three years. It found that the profusion of scam angles in 2022 “dwarf the years that preceded the pandemic.”  Among the highlights:

The number of reported Facebook Marketplace scams grew 184.8% over the past year. These included numerous cases where sellers reported losing products to scammers who sent fake checks or other bogus cash “payments” as well as buyers who sent money but never received the product.

User complaints related to Zelle scams grew 86% during the past year. One of the top Zelle scam formats involved fraudsters who put fake rental listings on the web and collected money for rentals that don’t exist. There was also a rise in pet scams following the same pattern.

PayPal-related scams grew 31.8% this past year, often involving cash payments for products that were never sent.

Scams involving WhatsApp rose 32.1% over the past year, partly because the app has become a gateway for romance and sextortion scams as well as for fake cryptocurrency investment opportunities.

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One problem is that many consumers might have a “false sense of security” about P2P platforms, said Robert Lowry, VP of security at BeenVerified — especially regarding Zelle, which is run by a company jointly owned by Bank of America, Truist, PNC, US Bancorp, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Capital One.

“The move from the banks that own Zelle to reimburse victims of fraud is one that speaks to the rapidly shifting landscape of peer-to-peer payment solutions,” Lowry told GOBankingRates in an email statement. “It’s a good sign for consumers using these apps that all banks may move to protect these types of payments as they do for traditional banking transactions when someone is a victim of fraud.”

To avoid becoming victims of fraud, consumers should “thoroughly vet” the people they send money to over P2P platforms, Lowry added.

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Here are some recommendations to guard yourself against fraudulent phone calls, texts or emails:

Don’t respond to messages. Doing so can draw attention from scammers who will attempt to convince you there’s a problem. Instead, directly call the company in question to check any fraudulent activity claims.

Never click links from sources you don’t know or trust. Links can potentially download malicious software such as ransomware, spyware or viruses.

Don’t provide personal information unless you know and trust the person requesting it.

Don’t give anyone remote access to your device.

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This article originally appeared on Consumer Fraud: Scams Spike on Facebook, Zelle, PayPal — What You Need to Know

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