Author: Michele Jameson
With Zelle’s rapid growth in popularity, there is an increase in scams on the widely utilized site. One of the scammers’ most recent victims was a young South Bay woman who had been saving money to pay for a headstone for her mother’s grave but had lost all of it.
Her 52-year-old mother, Diana, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last year, and the scam worsened her grief. She complained that her family could not purchase a monument for her mother’s grave in a section of the cemetery without any grass.
The granite gravestones cost more than $3,000, so Chavez worked as a care assistant for disabled children for the past year to save money. She intended to surprise her father as soon as she could get enough cash, and they could lay the stone together. She achieved her aim just a few days before her mother’s passing anniversary. However, the thieves attacked just as she was preparing for the surprise.
What was the scammers’ strategy?
It started with a text message that came to be from Bank of America on her phone. The question in the text was as if she had just sent $3,500 to Jacob Tanner via Zelle. She immediately replied, “no.”
The phone rang two minutes after she received the message. Bank of America appeared on the caller ID. A man on the line warned her to act immediately because someone was attempting to withdraw $3,500 from her bank account. He advised her to transfer the money to a supposedly secure account using Zelle. She should register a Zelle account using her middle name and a part of her last name, then transfer the funds there.
To ensure this was a safe activity, she requested the man to allow her to talk to a supervisor, but he refused. But she assumed it was secure because the Zelle app was linked to her Bank of America phone app. She was wrong. After pressing the send button, $1,500 and $2,000 disappeared. But instead of a secure account, it went directly into the scammers’ personal Zelle account.
Bank of America denied Chavez’s claim.
Chavez complained to Bank of America, claiming that scammers stole her money from her bank account. The bank rejected her claim, noting that even though the transaction was illegal, she had authorized it.
According to Zelle’s parent firm, Early Warning Systems, with $460 billion in transfers made last year, it is currently the most popular peer-to-peer payment software. But hundreds of millions of dollars from those funds went to cheaters instead of friends and family.
Many criticize that the Zelle platform is owned and promoted by banks. Scammers can access a user’s money immediately by linking the app to their bank account. BofA only allows $3500 in daily transfers using Zelle, which is often how much money scammers steal from their victims.
Chavez was upset not just by losing her mother and her money but also her trust in the bank. When other victims of the same Zelle fraud received refunds, Bank of America was questioned as to why it did not return money to Chavez. The bank simply noted that it considers each situation separately.