Zelle is a U.S.-based payment network owned by Bank of America, BB&T, Wells Fargo, US Bank, Capital One, and JPMorgan Chase. Zelle allows users of the app that have a bank account with one of the member banks to send payments to any other Zelle app user that also has an account with one of the banks without any fees. Since the Zelle member banks account for a large percentage of U.S. bank accounts, Zelle has become a popular, convenient way to send money—it is now Venmo's main competitor and, unfortunately, a target of scammers.
If you have an account with one of the member banks, getting started with Zelle is easy. It is already built into thousands of banking apps. People who don't have access to the Zelle app in their banking app can download the Zelle app from either the iPhone App Store or Google Play.
Scammers will use many techniques to trick you out of your hard-earned money. Here are some of the widespread scams that target Zelle users.
For this scam, the scammer will need your cell phone number and your bank account number, which they most likely got through a data breach. They will call you on the phone claiming to be from the fraud department of your bank. The caller ID may even show the call is from your bank—a trick called call spoofing.
The caller will say that fraud was detected on your account, and they are calling to help you take care of any fraudulent charges. The caller will ask you to open up your banking app and enter a verification code. But what the scammer is actually doing is signing up for a Zelle account using your details. The verification code will give the Zelle app on the scammer's phone access to your account, and the scammer will empty your account.
In this scam, known as cash flipping, the scammer will tell you they can get great returns on your money in a very short time. For example, the scammer will claim that your money could double or triple if you send it using Zelle right away. However, as soon as you transfer the money, it is gone, and you will see no returns.
In this scam, the scammer will offer tickets, puppies, or another product in an online marketplace. One common place is Craigslist because creating a new ad is simple and can be anonymous. When you email or message the seller about purchasing the item, the seller will ask that you pay them using Zelle.
Since Zelle is a legitimate payment service, you are happy to do so. What could go wrong? The scammer then never sends you the item and takes off with your money, taking advantage of the fact that all payments using Zelle are final.
This is a simple scheme that scammers use to prey on people who donate to charities. They will set up a fake website or social media profile and ask for donations, only accepting payments using Zelle. Any donations made go straight into the scammer's pocket, and the fake charity will disappear from the internet within a few days.
The best way to prevent yourself from falling victim to a Zelle scam is by protecting your accounts and knowing the red flags of fraud. Here are some tips:
If you have fallen victim to a Zelle scam or have been contacted by a scammer, here are some things you can do.
If a hacker has gained access to your bank account and made a payment through Zelle, that is fraud, and you should report that to your bank right away. Your bank will identify all the fraudulent charges and stop any future fraudulent payments from your account. In most cases of fraud, you will get your money back. You should also call Zelle at 1-844-428-8542 to report the unauthorized transaction.
If you authorized a Zelle payment yourself to purchase a product or service you never received, you might not get your money back. But you should still contact your bank and give them the details of the scam to see if there is anything that can be done.
If you have been scammed out of money using Zelle, report the scam to Zelle. Zelle has an online form to report scams. They categorize scams as merchandise, property, jobs, imposter, charity, investment, and romance. Have all your details ready, because the form is extensive. They will report the incident to the affected banks to prevent the same thing from happening to anyone else.
If you've fallen victim to a Zelle scam, report it to the authorities, like:
Although they may not help you get your money back, reporting Zelle scams to the authorities can help them catch the culprits.
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