I felt like quite the fool this past weekend. In trying to sell my dad’s high-performance recliner chair, I joined Facebook’s Marketplace and nearly got scammed.

It started out OK. Someone named Mario messaged me, saying he wanted to buy the chair and hoped it was in good condition. While his communication was spotty on Saturday, he reemerged with a flourish on Sunday, telling me he wanted the chair so much he was willing to pay me for it first.

Yippee! I thought. This was easy. He said he’d Zelle-pay me. A regular Zelle user, I consented. That’s when things went south.

After giving him my email and phone number, he said he paid me $500, which he said I’d be notified about in my email. I was. The email — from “Zelle pay” — said that the money wouldn’t come through unless I upgraded to a business account. 

This entailed him sending me $300, with the understanding I’d pay him back. Mario asked me if I would promise to send him the $300 back. I said I would.

I went as far as adding him as a Zelle user before panic set in. 

He sure had a strange email address, and it was odd he used the name Ethan for the purposes of Zelle. Furthermore, why did my bank not send me notice of the two deposits?

I didn’t go through with the transaction. I told Mario it didn’t feel right. He didn’t argue. I checked my account. Zelle did not send “Ethan” the money. Other than my pride and my nerves, everything was intact.

I share this story because I am hardly alone. In 2023, data from the Federal Trade Commission found that consumers reported losing nearly $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022.

Older adults are especially prone. A recent study revealed that older adults tend to fall for financial scams because they depend more on trust when making choices.

While I am not yet considered an older adult (at least according to the study), I can identify with this phenomenon. Many of us grew up with the belief in the importance of the golden rule. To operate in the world — and particularly as you age and become more dependent on others — you have to trust.

What is especially disturbing is that I nearly fell victim to a scam when I was most vulnerable; I just suffered the loss of a loved one. I can only imagine how many older adults become prey to fraudsters at their lowest moments. 

But I’ll look on the bright side. While I almost got burned, I hope to continue to think the best of others. I just won’t be so quick to use Facebook Marketplace anytime soon.

Thankfully, my mom took the chair.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].