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  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 14, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Zelle   

    Is Zelle issuing refunds to scam victims? 

    By Greg Collier

    Since this past June, thousands of banks that use the Zelle payment app have been issuing refunds. Why are these banks issuing refunds? For at least the past two years, Zelle has been a boon to scammers. Zelle has been instrumental in allowing scammers to take money from their victims.

    Primarily, Zelle is used in bank impersonation scams. They start out when a victim receives a text message that appears to have come from their bank. The message asks the victim if they recently made a large purchase or transfer and to reply with yes or no. Once the victim replies, the scammers call the victim while posing as the bank’s fraud department. The victim is told their bank account has been compromised, and they need to move their money to a safe account to protect it. The scammers walk the victim through instructions on how to transfer the money to the safe account on Zelle. Then the victim unknowingly transfers their money to the scammer’s account.

    The banks that implement Zelle have been hesitant to issue any refunds to customers. They typically claim that since the customer authorized the payment, there are no grounds for a refund. The banks also claim if they start issuing refunds, then scammers will try to work their way into the refund process.

    In that vein, Zelle has been pretty quiet about how consumers can go about requesting a refund. Nor has it given any indications on any kind of timeline for refunds or whether refunds can be requested retroactively. However, in their defense, Zelle has enacted new prompts within the app that are supposed to warn users if the app feels like the user is making a risky transfer. Zelle claims this has significantly cut down on scams.

    But the best way to protect yourself is to not take the scammer’s bait. Your bank will never tell you that you need to move your money to protect it. That’s just not a thing. If you receive a text message or phone call that claims to be coming from your bank, do not respond. Instead, call your bank at the customer service number from your debit or credit card, and they’ll be able to advise you on if there is anything wrong with your account. And also keep in mind that Zelle is only supposed to be used between friends and family. Anyone else who is asking for payment through Zelle could be trying to scam you.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 6, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Zelle   

    Real police don’t give discounts 

    By Greg Collier

    Older generations used to have a fear drilled into them about missing jury duty. For the longest time, there was a type of reverence toward jury duty. No one wanted to do it, but no one wanted to go to jail either. Whether that fear was warranted remains to be seen, but that fear still seems to have a grip on people, and scammers are using it to their advantage.

    Yes, we’re discussing the jury duty scam again. As we’ve said before, it’s probably the most common scam going today. Just in researching for today’s post, we found around a dozen news stories where local police departments and sheriff’s offices were warning residents about the scam. It’s a form of a police impersonation scam. Scammers will pose as local police or the local courthouse while calling their victims to tell them they missed jury duty. Sometimes the scammers will say the victim has a warrant out for their arrest, or if the victim is a professional, they missed a court date where they were supposed to give expert witness testimony.

    The endgame is always the same, though, the victim can supposedly avoid jail time by paying a fine over the phone. Like most scams, this is done by gift cards, payment apps, or cryptocurrency, three forms of payment that neither courts nor police ever accept or ask for. Another thing the police or courts will never do is offer offenders a discount.

    That’s what happened to a Pennsylvania man recently when he got a call telling him he had missed federal jury duty. The call appeared to come from his local sheriff’s office, but any phone number can be spoofed.

    The scammers told the man if he didn’t pay $4900, patrol cars would show up at his home to take him to jail for 60 days. The man tried to withdraw the money from his bank, but the transaction was declined as the bank thought the man was being scammed. At this point, the scammers lowered the phony fine to $1000, which, unfortunately, the victim sent through the Zelle payment app.

    If you’ve ever had a traffic ticket or any kind of court cost, you may have been able to set up a payment arrangement if you don’t have all of the money at the time. But getting the fine talked down to a fifth of its original cost is virtually unheard of.

    If someone were to knowingly miss jury duty, they could be held in contempt of court, however, most jurisdictions do not send those people to jail. There will be a fine, but it’s unlikely it will be anywhere in the neighborhood of $5000. That notice will also be sent in the mail. When someone has an arrest warrant, police do not give them a courtesy call, they just show up unannounced. If you ever get one of these calls, ask the caller for their call back number, but call your local police department instead.

    If you keep these things in mind, you’ll be prepared if police impersonators ever call.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 7, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Zelle   

    Scammers easily avoid Zelle warning 

    Scammers easily avoid Zelle warning

    By Greg Collier

    In the news article we read about the latest chapter in the Zelle scam, it says that the Zelle scam is back. To be honest, it never went away. For almost two years, we’ve been documenting how the personal payment app has been used by scammers to defraud victims out of their money. As far as we know, there has been no break in this scam’s activity.

    For the uninitiated, the Zelle scam works like this. The victim receives a text message inquiring whether they have recently made a substantial purchase or transfer. The victim is instructed to reply with a simple yes or no. After the response, scammers follow up with a phone call, pretending to represent the victim’s bank’s fraud department. The fraudsters then urge the victim to safeguard their bank account by either transferring their funds or using Zelle to “pay themselves.” However, what actually happens is that the scammers are guiding the victim through the process of transferring funds to the scammers’ account through Zelle.

    Since these scams have started, it doesn’t appear as Zelle has done much in the way of consumer protection. If you do make a money transfer using Zelle, a warning does appear, which advises users not to send money to anyone they don’t know personally. Yet, the scam persists. So, what clever trick have the scammers devised to circumvent this warning? Is it nefarious malware that suppresses the warning? Not exactly. The scammers are simply telling their victims to ignore the warning. That’s it.

    Now, keep in mind the scammers are posing as the victim’s bank, who are supposed to have the final authority on a customer’s account. I’m sure we’ve all had to follow instructions at one point where we told to just ignore something. To us, this exhibits the poor protection Zelle has for its users, rather than any fault of the victim.

    It’s important to note that Zelle is intended for use strictly among friends and family, those you have a personal relationship with. Be cautious of any unfamiliar business or individual requesting payment through Zelle, as this could be a potential scam attempt. Remember, your bank will never ask you to move your funds using Zelle.

    If you find yourself falling victim to this scam, your initial step should be to promptly file a police report. While it doesn’t guarantee a refund, taking this action can significantly aid your situation. Moreover, if you believe your bank is not treating you fairly, don’t hesitate to reach out to a consumer advocate reporter in your local area for assistance. Their involvement can provide you with the support you need.

  • Geebo 8:01 am on June 14, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Zelle   

    Don’t pay for a rental car with Zelle 

    Don't pay for a rental car with Zelle

    By Greg Collier

    With many people planning vacations for the warmer weather, there are a number of scams to look out for. We recently highlighted some of them here. Another scam vacationers may want to be aware of involves rental cars.

    When looking to rent a vehicle, make sure you’re speaking to an actual rental car agency. If you do a web search for a phone number to a rental car agency, you may not be given the results you’re actually looking for. Scammers can and have paid web search companies to have their listings show higher than the actual rental agencies in some search results.

    The listing and possibly the website itself will appear like it belongs to one of the brand name agencies like Budget or Enterprise to name a few. However, when you call the number in the listing, you’ll actually be directed to a scam call center.

    This recently happened to an elderly woman from Texas. Her son came to visit, and she decided to rent a car. She thought she was talking to Budget, but was actually talking to scammers. They gave her a great price, but then the scammers asked for a $400 security deposit to be paid through Zelle. Unfortunately, the victim sent the $400 to the scammers and no car was ever delivered.

    To steer clear of this scam while renting a car, it is advisable to utilize the customer service hotline provided on the rental agency’s official website. Nearly all agencies offer a location finder tool on their website, which guides you to the closest branch in your area and provides their respective contact number.

    And when paying for your rental, legitimate agencies will never ask for payment through apps like Zelle, Venmo, or Cash App. Neither will they ask for payment in gift cards or cryptocurrency. If they do, they’re trying to scam you.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 9, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Zelle   

    No change in Zelle scam with scammers or banks 

    No change in Zelle scam with scammers or banks

    By Greg Collier

    In a few months, it will be two years since we first started posting stories about the Zelle scam. Since it’s been a while since we’ve posted about it last, let’s have a quick refresher.

    Zelle is a personal payment app whose parent company is co-owned by several of the nation’s biggest banks. Some of these banks include, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and US Bank, just to name a few. Often, these big banks will have the Zelle service baked in to that bank’s phone app. Many customers of these banks don’t even realize they have Zelle on their devices.

    Zelle is designed to be used between friends and family, much like Venmo and Cash App. However, also like Venmo and Cash App, Zelle also has its fair share of scammers.

    Another problem with the Zelle scam is the banks that use Zelle are very hesitant to offer refunds to the victims of scams. The banks state since the customer authorized the transaction, even under false pretenses, the transaction is considered legitimate. Some banks have only offered refunds after the victim has taken their story to their local media.

    Here is an example of how the scam works. Recently, a man from North Carolina received a text message asking him if he made a $7500 Zelle transfer to a person he didn’t know. The text appeared to come from his bank, Bank of America. The text message said to reply yes or no to the text message. The man sent a text reply of ‘no’, but it wouldn’t have mattered how he replied, since he was actually texting with scammers.

    After he sent his reply, he received a phone call that looked like it was coming from B of A, complete with the caller ID showing the B of A customer service number. The number was spoofed by the scammers, which is an easy thing for them to do. The scammers were posing as customer service agents from B of A. They gave the man instructions on how to protect his money from the fraudulent transaction, but what they were really doing was walking him through the steps to send money to the scammers. In his case, it was $1500. The man claims when he inquired with B of A, they allegedly told him it was his responsibility.

    Anytime you receive a notification that looks like it came from your bank asking you about a transaction or telling you your account is at risk, do not reply. Instead, call your bank’s customer service department directly to verify if there is an actual problem with your account.

    If you’ve fallen victim to this scam, contact police immediately. While it’s not a guarantee of getting your money back, it does go a long way in helping. Lastly, if your bank is refusing a refund, think about going to your local media with your story, as we have seen some successes after victims have done that.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 11, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Zelle   

    Never hand over your phone for candy 

    Never hand over your phone for candy

    By Greg Collier

    A woman from New York City thought she was being charitable when she handed her phone to a pair of teens who said they were selling candy. Like many of us, the woman said she had no cash on her. Also, the woman didn’t want any candy, but the teens said she could make a donation if she wanted to through payment apps Zelle or Venmo. The woman used Zelle on a regular basis and wanted to make a small donation.

    In order to send someone money on Zelle, you need to know their email address or phone number. The woman asked the teens for a phone number to send the money to, but the teens said they’ll enter the number on the woman’s phone for her. The phone was handed to the teens who entered the phone number on the Zelle app and the woman made a five dollar donation and thought nothing of it. That was until she went to the grocery store and discovered her bank account was empty. Before giving the woman back her phone, the teens sent $1800 from the woman’s account to the phone number they entered.

    There’s another variation of this scam we’ve discussed before. Typically, it involves the scammer claiming they’re in some kind of situation where they need to make a phone call, but their phone is dead. The scammers often claim their car has broken down, but there are other situations they use in this scam. Once the victim hands over the phone to the scammer, the scammer will open up one of the victim’s payment or banking apps and send the victim’s money to another account. The scam has often been called the Good Samaritan scam.

    Getting back to today’s scam, it turns out the whole incident was caught on the security camera footage at the coffee shop where the woman was approached. The victim thought she wouldn’t have any issue getting her money back from her bank since she had proof she was scammed. However, like with most victims who have been scammed through Zelle, Bank of America allegedly refused reimbursement, since to them, it appeared like the victim had authorized the transaction. Also, like many Zelle scam victims, B of A said they would reopen the investigation after the victim took her story to local media.

    To better protect yourself from a scam like this, try to avoid handing your phone over to strangers, and especially don’t hand them the phone while one of your financial apps is open. Please keep in mind that apps like Zelle and Venmo are only supposed to be used between family and friends. If your phone has a fingerprint reader, consider using that to secure your payment apps on your phone, or at least use a PIN.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 5, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Zelle   

    Zelle refunding scam victims, but won’t say which ones 

    Zelle refunding scam victims, but won't say which ones

    By Greg Collier

    The Zelle payment app has been popular with scammers for the past year and a half now. If you’re unfamiliar with the app, it’s a personal payment app. It’s supposed to allow you to make payments to friends and family instantly. However, scammers have used it to have their victims direct money to scammers’ bank accounts. Zelle is owned by a group of some of the nation’s leading banks, and in the past, these banks have been hesitant to refund scam victims. Now, Zelle is seemingly saying they’re going to be refusing scam victims, but are being vague about the details.

    But first, let’s look into how Zelle scams work. The most prolific of these scams is the bank impersonation scam. In this fraudulent scheme, the target receives a text message inquiring whether they have recently made a substantial purchase or transfer. The recipient is instructed to reply with a simple yes or no. After the response, scammers follow up with a phone call, pretending to represent the victim’s bank’s fraud department. The fraudsters then urge the victim to safeguard their bank account by either transferring their funds or using Zelle to “pay themselves.” However, what actually happens is that the scammers are guiding the victim through the process of transferring funds to them via Zelle.

    Zelle can also be used in almost any scam where money is involved, such as phony landlords, and scammers who pose as police threatening victims with arrest. A good rule to follow to protect yourself from these scam is to only use it to send money to someone you know personally. Even then, you should make sure that person requested money from you.

    Getting back to the refunds, Zelle’s parent company recently released a statement saying they were going to, “mandate consumer reimbursement for certain types of scams.” But that’s basically all the information they’ve released. Now, it’s understandable that Zelle would want to keep the details quiet to keep scammers from finding out, but once refunds start happening, people are going to know. We believe that Zelle should be more transparent to keep its users and scam victims better informed. To keep the process secret, it seems like Zelle has something to hide.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 3, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    The Digital Trap: How Technology leaves the Young Vulnerable to Scams 

    By Greg Collier

    When we discuss older Americans being susceptible to scams, it’s usually because of their unfamiliarity with some modern technology. However, being too familiar with tech can also make someone vulnerable to scams.

    For example, young people, who use payment apps like Cash App and Venmo regularly, could be convinced to use those apps to their own detriment.

    Recently, a college student from Louisiana fell victim to a phony check scam. She thought she was applying for a job as a nanny. The scammers sent the student checks for thousands of dollars, and told her to deposit them in her own bank account. She was then instructed to send out payments for things like appliances and cleaning supplies. These payments were sent out through the Zelle and Venmo apps.

    Afterward, the bank discovered that the checks were fraudulent, but the student had already sent out all the money. In these cases, the banks hold the account holder responsible for the lost money, even if it was lost through deceitful means.

    Statistically, younger people are just as vulnerable to scams as the elderly, if not more so. This is possibly because of their unfamiliarity with traditional banking transactions. This is not intended as a criticism of young people, but rather a reminder that not everything needs to be done digitally.

    As far as this scam goes, never deposit any checks intended for business into your personal account. Real employers will never ask you to do that. Anyone who asks you to deposit a check then asks you to make payments for them is just trying to scam you.

    Lastly, apps like Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App should only be used with friends and family. These apps make it too easy for scammers to cash out and disappear after taking your money. The companies behind the apps are typically helpless to do much after the transaction goes through, or so they say. So, if you do get scammed through these apps, a refund probably isn’t likely. Please keep in mind that while these apps may be popular in your social circles, most legitimate businesses do not accept payments through them.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 19, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Scam Round Up: Fake check scam targets lower income families and more 

    Scam Round Up: Fake check scam targets lower income families and more

    By Greg Collier

    This week on the round up we’re bringing you two scams that take advantage of the disadvantaged and one that can affect any business and its customers.


    The business email compromise scam is one of the more insidious scams. While it targets businesses, it’s usually the customers who lose the most. This is when scammers hijack a business’ email client and use it to deceive customers into making payments to the scammers. Typically, we’ve seen this when scammers convince homebuyers to send their closing costs to the scammers.

    More recently, scammers hijacked the email client of a roofing company in Florida. If you’ll recall, many Florida residents are still recovering from Hurricane Ian. The scammers sent emails to customers asking them to send their payments through the Zelle payment app. One customer lost $1800 to the scammers.

    If a business that you’re dealing with that you’re expected to make a large payment to, be wary if you’re suddenly asked to pay in nontraditional means. These can be payment apps like Venmo and Zelle, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency just to name a few. If you receive one of these emails, call the business to verify the payment request.


    Our next scam is one of the oldest scams out there and predates the internet. Residents in Pennsylvania have reported receiving letters in the mail that are promising them an inheritance. This isn’t just a tired plot device from old TV shows, and victims have fallen for this scam.

    One of two things typically happen with the inheritance scam. The victim is either asked to make some kind of payment to secure the inheritance, or they’re asked for their banking information. Either way, it can be a devastating financial loss for the victims, especially if they’re in desperate financial need.

    If you receive one of these letters, toss it in the trash. The odds that the letter is legitimate are slim. If you still think there’s an outside chance it might be real, check your family lineage first before making any payments.


    Our last scam is quite an insidious one. Scammers are sending fake checks to families in traditionally low-income areas. Victims are being told that they’re receiving a payment from UNICEF because of their income status.

    As with any fake check scam, the victims are being instructed to deposit the check and are being asked to send a portion of the payment to a third party. Some of the checks have been as much as $9600.

    If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ll know that the banks will allow the victims to access that money as a courtesy before the bank discovers the check is fraudulent. Then the victim is responsible for paying the amount of the check back to the bank. Meanwhile, the scammers make off with the amount that the victim sent to the third party.

    If you receive a check in the mail you’re not expecting, dispose of it. Especially if you’re being asked to send a part of it somewhere else. That can only end up as a substantial financial loss.

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