It seems that each year scams are at an all-time high. And with the recent pandemic, scammers are certainly working overtime.
However, there are ways to protect ourselves so stick around till the end of the article to find out how. But first, here are the most common Zelle scams.
1. Fake Zelle or Bank Customer Support Calls
You might have read or heard about this one. Heck, you probably even got a call (or dozen) already. I know I have, and so did almost everyone around me.
A robocall from a supposed Zelle or even a bank customer support. Coming from a real number of the institution in question. Caller ID and all saying Bank of America or Zelle.
You can’t fault people for picking up the call, however, once you hear that robotic voice, you better hang up the call. Because it’s so easy to fake caller ID, we can’t be sure who is on the other line anymore until we answer the call.
Of course, not every call is a robocall. There’s a good chance that there’s an impersonator on the line, trying to scam you out of money.
And that’s exactly what’s been happening to thousands of people nationwide. It’s a good thing that local news reporters are well, reporting on these scams because it’s far too easy to fall for one of them.
One of the most popular scams lately involves getting a text message from your bank asking if you’re trying to transfer money. Once you answer no, the scammers call you on the phone and tell you that you can still reverse the “fraudulent” transaction.
You just have to go to Zelle and send the money back to yourself. You should be aware that all Zelle transactions are final once you make them. There’s no way of stopping them or “sending money back to yourself.”
Even though all the notifications you’re getting are legit and coming from Zelle or the bank, the money isn’t actually going back into your account but in the account of the scammers.
2. Fake Emails, Messages, DMs
This is how most scams and even hacks start, with a fake message, email, or even a direct message (DM) on a social network. Yes, the scammers are everywhere.
The thing is, some, not all, of these messages, come from what seems is a legit and official number, email, or social media account. As with phone numbers, the internet has made it all too easy to fake an official correspondence.
What all of these messages are trying to do is to give them your login credentials for the financial and banking apps that you are using.
However, with some of these apps, and Zelle is one of them, they’re already baked into existing banking apps and you don’t even have to be using it or even knowing about it for you to still get scammed.
The most common text scam is trying to trick you into clicking on a link and typing in your sensitive info or downloading a malicious app.
NEVER click or tap on a link in a message or email that you 100% don’t know if it’s legit or fake. It’s better to look like a fool than to get scammed.
3. Refund and Recovery Scams
By now, we already know that scammers are extremely smart and sneaky. Probably not the ones that are doing the legwork, but the ones behind the scenes devising them.
Scammers also know that right after you get scammed you’re not in a good place and that your mind is erratic. That’s the perfect chance to double-tap you and try to scam you again.
Then there’s the fact that they also keep a so-called ‘sucker list.’ You guessed it. The list has all known details about the person that fell for a scam, including what scam they fell for and how much the damage was.
READ NEXT: Does Zelle work internationally?
They might share the list with other scammers, but more often, they would sell it for profit so that others could get some more money out of you potentially.
The scammers will call or text you and impersonate an official that’s trying to help you retrieve money, things, or even services that were stolen from you.
This might happen even if you weren’t yet aware that you got scammed. Because they already have all sorts of information about you they will use it to tell you about the, supposed or not, scam.
It’s a well-known fact that most of us respect authority figures and by impersonating an authority figure, like a federal agent, lawyer, or police officer, they sound more credible.
To get your possessions back, they’ll ask you to pay an upfront fee that they often refer to as a processing fee, tax, administrative charge, a retainer fee, shipment and handling charge, donation, and similar.
Instead of payment, they might ask you for your checking account number and other sensitive information so that they can deposit a “refund” into your account.
The point I’m trying to make with all these examples is that if you suspect you’ve got scammed, pay attention to your next steps and don’t fall for another scam straightaway. Be careful who you trust and don’t give anyone more money or log in details.
4. Romance Scam
The romance scam starts out innocently enough with a fake social media or dating app profile. The person on the other side is generally impersonating a US soldier, an engineer, oil rig worker, doctor, etc. that’s serving on duty overseas.
In 2021 alone, there were reported a whopping $547 million in losses to the FTC. That’s almost 50% more than the year before and more than 600% compared to 2017. Obviously fueled by the pandemic when most of us were at home, spending more time on social media.
The FTC website paints a grisly picture with hundreds of comments from everyday people getting scammed by a person faking an interest in them just to bleed them dry.
The scammers are charming and can get people to fall head over heels for them and typically don’t start requesting cash or gifts until at least a week or more had gone by and you have swapped hundreds of texts.
So, what do the scammers ask the money for? What’s in common for these requests is that they are urgent and they need cash for:
- Surgery or other medical costs,
- To pay off a fine,
- For a plane ticket to visit you,
- Pay for a visa or other official travel documents
- To pay off gambling or other debts,
- Gift cards, etc.
If you give money to these people once, the requests will never stop and they’ll try to squeeze as much money out of you as humanly possible.
Once you’re knee-deep into this kind of scam, it’s usually very difficult to recognize that it is in fact a scam. Just try to slow down and even ask someone close to you for an opinion.
You might not like their answer, but try to look at it from the third-person perspective, from the outside in. Then again, a quick Google search can clear any doubts and reveal that in fact, you are in the middle of it.
5. Craigslist Scam
The good old Craigslist. There probably isn’t a person that frequented the website and wasn’t targeted by a scammer. The sheer amount of people using the service makes it a numbers game for scammers.
The more scams they try to pull off there, the greater the chance they get someone to fall for it.
Of course, these kinds of scams aren’t exclusive to Craigslist but are prevalent on ALL P2P selling/buying websites and platforms. It happened to me the other day when I was trying to sell a few unwanted things from my apartment.
So, what does a typical scam attempt look like? The scammer will generally call you or send you a message asking if the product is still available and if you would ship it to them.
People sell and ship products every day so that’s not a red flag by itself but when they start asking all sorts of information about you that’s really not needed to ship stuff, that’s when you should raise the alarm.
Again, a quick Google search can reveal so much information about these scams because people publish their scam stories all day long.
The scammers want all the information they can get. The more, the merrier, but especially personal details like name, address, and even SSN.
Even if you’re selling things, there’s no relaxing. However, the scams are more prevalent if you’re buying a product or service, or renting an apartment, for instance.
Try not to pay for something upfront, or even put a deposit to reserve something. There’s a BIG chance that the so-called seller won’t send the thing or perform the service after you send them the money via Zelle, Venmo, Cash App, etc.
It’s easy money for them as you aren’t protected by Zelle, Venmo, Cash App, and other money transfer apps in case of fraud or scam.
Try to have the item in your hands and inspected before you hand over the money. The scammers will often tell you that the item was sent out and that it’s safe for you to transfer the money.
They might go as far as to Photoshop a delivery service or post office receipt to prove their point. However, there’s a big chance that you’re going to get an empty package or, the ultimate insult, a brick.
RELATED: The 10 Most Common Venmo Scams
Zelle was launched in 2017 when some of the largest banks in the United States joined forces together and developed this useful app. Because the app is part of all of their banking apps, it quickly gained traction and is now almost as popular as PayPal, Venmo, and other similar apps.
Today, consumers of nearly 8,000 financial institutions participate in the Zelle Network, and 392 million transactions were completed during the first quarter of 2021 alone.
Zelle was developed so that you could send money to people you know and trust, like friends and family. At least one person in the transaction has to have access to Zelle through Bank or credit union.
How to protect yourself from Zelle scams?
By reading this article, you’re already taking a step towards protecting yourself. However, here is some more advice.
- Get acquainted with your payment app’s terms and conditions associated with fraud protection
- Disable all the features you don’t need or plan on using
- Find out what your financial institution’s fraud notifications look like and what to do if you get one
- Always read text messages closely and disregard the ones from organizations where you don’t have accounts or that don’t make sense
- When someone who claims to be from your financial institution calls you, hang up and call them back at a phone number you know is correct. Find the number online or directly in the app
- Never share login credentials, and any one-time codes with anyone, including your financial institution. They will never ask you for your login information
Federal law protects victims of scams. And even though your bank tells you there’s nothing they can do, the reality is, they can always do something about it, they just don’t want to and make excuses that Zelle is a third-party app, even though they developed it and it’s part of their own apps.
Regulation E is a part of the Federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act that requires banks to refund consumers for fraudulent transactions on their accounts.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau set out a memorandum recently that said the law applies if a third party fraudulently induces a consumer into sharing account access information. This is exactly what happens when someone scams you.
Under this regulation, there’s a timeframe when you have to report the fraud or scam to your bank to be liable for less or even no money. Here are the timeframes:
|Before any unauthorized charges were made||$0|
|Within two business days||$50|
|More than two business days but less than 60 calendar days||$500|
|More than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you||All the money taken from you|
Always assume a text or phone call from a financial institution is a scam or fake until proven otherwise. Follow the advice laid out above and use your common sense. By simply stepping back and not acting on a limb, you have more time to figure out what to do next and more time for the scammers to reveal their real face and agenda.
Always report the scam or fraud or even if only an attempt was made. Here’s where:
- FBI (IC3.gov)
- Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)
- AARP (aarp.org/fraud)
- Better Business Bureau (BBB.org/scamtracker)
Adrian Volenik is a fintech enthusiast who loves testing and reviewing digital banking apps and financial products in general. How many digital banking accounts can one man have? Not enough, if you ask Adrian. As his wallet will soon explode if he doesn’t cut back on the number of cards.