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Feb 6, 2024

Facebook Marketplace Scams on the Rise in Belize

Online sales scams have become an all too familiar occurrence in the digital age. We have reported on numerous cases that were brought to the attention of the police. Recently, a man was arrested and charged for allegedly scamming a woman of fourteen hundred dollars for a sofa set he never delivered.  We have also reported incidents involving vehicles and electronic devices. Well, one Ladyville resident was very close to making a deposit for the very same sofa set scam that another woman fell victim to. She saw some red flags during her online and telephone interactions with the purported seller. So, what did she do? She threatened to send the police after the individuals and decided to forego the purchase. News Five’s Paul Lopez takes a closer look at the matter and the steps victims can take. Here is that report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Reports of online sales scams have become all too common. The latest person to be charged for a related offense is twenty-six-year-old Hattieville Resident, Austin Williams. He was charged for scamming an elderly woman out of fourteen hundred dollars for a sofa set he never delivered. We spoke via phone to a Ladyville resident who almost fell for Williams’ Facebook scam.


Voice of: Ladyville Resident

Voice of: Ladyville Resident

“I was just looking on Facebook Marketplace because I like looking up there to see if there is anything I want and I saw this beautiful white sofa, white leather sofa so I figured o wow this is this. I have a sofa but I can do with this one. So I messaged the person and they immediately asked if I was interested and I said yes and I asked where they were located and they said Placencia.”


But, further interactions with the seller only raised red flags for this potential buyer.


Voice of: Ladyville Resident

“Supposedly it was a young lady I was talking to and she said I can have my husband, text not talking, I can have my husband bring it for you. I said, could you please ask how much he would charge me to bring it from Placencia and she said I will get back to you. She messaged fifty dollars that was the first red flag, fifty dollars from Placencia.”


The seller insisted that this potential buyer deposit fifty percent of the fourteen hundred dollar price tag placed on the item. She informed the seller that she had cash only but, that she would send two hundred dollars to hold the item. The purported husband of the woman she first interacted with called her the following day.


Voice of: Ladyville Resident

“Now we were talking from a cell phone, he started to call me and said he is the husband of the young lady I was talking to. He said he would get somebody from Belize city to come to me for the money. I said ok, but I want a receipt. He took a picture of the receipt he wrote, with my name and the money. He took a picture of it. I said ok. And within half hour the run man came to my house in Ladyville. The first thing that set me, the first thing the run man did was pull out the same receipt that the run man made in Placencia, little bit more than half hour ago. So I put back my money in my pocket, took the receipt and asked where he get the receipt. He said, oh the man from Belize City gave me. I said which man, the man you are suppose to send something for.”


Pretending that she was ignorant of the red flags, she called back the number and the purported seller informed her that he was still in Placencia. She then informed him that her husband is a police officer in Placencia and that she would send him to collect the item and make the payment. She says, the accounts she was interacting were immediately deleted from Facebook. The purported seller used the identities of two individuals, Nailea Nunez and Howard Casey, without their knowledge. Even though she avoided this scam, one woman fell victim and lost fourteen hundred dollars. Police, with the help of their Cybercrime Unit, were able to track down the purported scammer.


Osmond Mortis

Superintendent Osmond Mortis, Head of Cybercrime Unit

“The first step is making a report, statements will record and we will be gathering the evidence, who is involved, the method that was used and so forth. The first step is making a report. No amount is too small and we will be looking into every matter.”

According to Superintendent Osmond Mortis, there has been an increase in reports of online sales scams. He says potential online buyers need to act with increased caution.


Superintendent Osmond Mortis

“Not everything electronic is good. There are some good people doing legitimate business on social media and there are a few out there who are making bad. The good suffer for the bad. As the saying goes, buyer beware. You have to make sure that when you are spending your money that the money is going where it is suppose to go and that you are getting that product for the money that you are spending. As a lot of people in Belize are not aware, there is a Cybercrime Act and the penalties are no joke.”


We also spoke with Attorney Richard “Dickie” Bradley, who implored citizens to protect their personal information so as to avoid being named in these kinds of online sales scams.


Richard “Dickie” Bradley

Richard “Dickie” Bradley, Attorney

“You need to protect yourself. You can’t mek people the have access to your pins, to your accounts, to your information which can be used against you. I was shocked to find out, that, at two courts they want people to bring and show their bank account if they are going to be allowed to sign bail for a citizen. Now if you give them your bank account, you don’t know what will happen. This is your information, you know what that is? Fortunately the law in Belize is being brought up to speed in terms of a lot of these matters here. As a victim is a crime has been committed against you, if you have been duped, obtaining properly by deception, hurry go and make a report to the police and secondly shut down everything that is out there and then don’t let it happen again. There is a phrase, if a man deceives me once, shame on him, if he deceives me again, I am the jack a…”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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