Atlanta teacher says a fake fraud alert scam wiped out her bank account

Atlanta — An Atlanta teacher thought her bank was alerting her to fraud, but it turned out It was a crook looking to scam her instead.

Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Justin Gray has done a series of stories about cash apps like Zelle and Venmo, but he says this one is a little different.

Shelby Coffin said a text message warned her of suspicious activity claiming her Wells Fargo account was used at Walmart and a new transaction had appeared on her Zelle money sharing account.

“It was $3,500, which might not seem a lot to some people, but to a teacher with a new baby is a ton of money,” Coffin said.

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A new mom with a sleepless baby, Coffin texted that she did not approve these transactions, and what she thought was Wells Fargo customer service called her immediately.

“He tells me that there are these charges that are being moved from my Zelle account and do I want to stop them. And I say ‘of course,’” Coffin said.

Instead of stopping the fraud, the man on the phone was committing it. He initiated a series of charges on Coffin’s Zelle account while she thought he was helping her.

“Essentially, they wiped my bank account out. They wiped my entire checking account. I had $500 left,” Coffin said.

In a series of Channel 2 Action News investigations, Gray has shown the security risks that can come with cash sharing apps like Zelle, Cash App and Venmo

In the spring, Gray helped Natalie Lieberman recover $15,000 from Bank of America that was stolen from her Zelle account.

“It made me feel so incredibly vulnerable and exposed,” Lieberman said.

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Zelle was created by the big banks to compete with apps like Venmo.

Consumer Advocate Clark Howard says it can give thieves a direct path to all your money.

Many customers are automatically signed up by their bank for Zelle without ever knowing it.

“They use the Zelle app, and they’re off to the races with your money,” Howard said.

Coffin filed a police report and a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Wells Fargo so far has refused to refund her money.

“I feel like an idiot for having been through this and really frustrating that it was so easy for them to scam me and so many other people,” Coffin said.

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What should you do if you think you were scammed?

The Federal Trade Commission says that step one is to report it to the company behind the app and ask if they can reverse the payment.

If it’s linked to a credit or debit card you also should report it to your credit card company as well and see if they can reverse the charge.