A quick-thinking online seller remained one step ahead of a scammer after he refused to part with his phone to the conman who tried to convince him the money was already in his account.

The 21-year-old of Warndon Villages, Worcester, who did not want to be named, is now alerting others to the modus operandi of the scammer to prevent people falling victim to the con.

The scam involves a fake banking app to trick the seller into thinking the money has been paid into their account so they are willing to part with the goods they are selling when the buyer arrives at their doorstep to collect. 

The man, who advertised an iPhone 13 for sale on Marketplace, said a man came to his home, arriving an an electric scooter, to collect the phone which was on sale for £350.

He said the buyer offered to pay via bank transfer, showing him 'a fake banking app' which made it look like the money had come through. 

"He was so eager to leave. It looked like it was a fake banking app on his phone. I told him he wasn't leaving the phone until I get the money," said the seller.

Although he has not reported the matter to West Mercia Police, he was keen to alert others.

He was able to check his own banking app which confirmed no money had entered his account.

"This is a very common scam and I want to raise awareness. Be careful and don't trust people you don't know. I'm speaking out to stop people getting scammed, 100 per cent. That's the only reason why," he said.

However, despite what happened he has not put off using Facebook Marketplace.

"A few bad eggs doesn't ruin the whole bunch," he said.

Last year West Mercia Police urged residents to be vigilant against online scams who appear to be genuine buyers or sellers on Facebook Marketplace.

A police spokesperson, speaking last January, said sellers have lost high-value items after being led to believe that payment has been made or is pending and releasing an item to the buyer.

The buyers in question may show fake bank transfer screenshots or email confirmations as proof of payment.

However, when the seller checks their online accounts, the payment is not there.

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Detective Sergeant Steve Lloyd of the Force Cyber Crime Team said: “Online marketplaces have become a very popular way of buying and selling, but fraudsters and cyber criminals are using it to take advantage of people’s trust.

"To protect yourself from becoming the victim of a cybercrime or fraud, remember there are three key steps to protect you, your friends, and your family. Make sure you have a strong and unique password consisting of three random words, utilise multifactor authentication and stop and think before you visit unsecure websites or make purchases on seller sites.

"Individuals should be vigilant and use trusted payment methods. If a deal appears to be too good to be true, it usually is. Always trust your instincts and walk away from unsafe transactions. If you have been the victim of a scam or cybercrime, report the incident to Action Fraud as soon as you are able to and notify your bank."


Top tips for online buyers and sellers from West Mercia Police:


• Always check your own account on a trusted device to confirm that payment has been cleared before handing over or posting items – do not trust someone else’s device, even if the buyer calls their bank in front of you and claims that it can take up to two hours for the money to clear.  Do not release the item until you are able to confirm the payment has arrived in your bank account.

• Do not use links or websites supplied by the buyer to check for payment, as these can also be forged and look genuine.

• Always use a reputable payment method. Payments made via credit card, PayPal or Apple/Google pay give you another level of security rather than direct bank transfers.

• If a buyer makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to block them and report them on the website.

• If the deal sounds “too good to be true” it probably is.

• Check when the online profile was created; if it was created very recently or has very limited information available, approach with caution.

• Minimise the personal information that you share in the advert and if possible, avoid giving any away altogether. If you need to provide your address for a buyer to collect an item, only do so once you are confident they have committed to buying it and it is safe to do so.

• If you’re meeting to exchange items, ensure your safety, take a friend or relative and arrange to meet in a busy public place.


West Mercia Police also have dedicated cyber and fraud protect officers who can arrange safeguarding advice for community groups, schools and small businesses. Contact cyberprotect@westmercia.police.uk for further information. If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or online by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk. For crimes in action, call 999. It’s also important to report all fraud-related incidents to Action Fraud to help build a national picture and help prevent others falling victim to scams.