DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Money gone in seconds. That’s what’s happening to millions of customers who rely on the popular money-transferring app Zelle.
Consumer advisers say thieves using the app to target money is on the rise.
Channel 2′s Ashli Lincoln found nearly 18 million Americans were scammed involving these money transfer apps.
Consumer advisors warn people not to fall for this scam, because once your money is gone, chances are high that you won’t get it back.
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Janet Hass is one of dozens of metro Atlanta bank customers who said they were duped by scammers using the Zelle app.
“We found out that we were hacked through Zelle,” she said. “Almost upwards of $40,000.”
Hass said the bank account she shares with her 20-year-old son was targeted by scammers.
“He’d been saving up for college about a year and a half, and to get a car. All of his life savings are messed up and he doesn’t have access to it,” she said.
She reached out to Channel 2 Action News after seeing our story last week about a Peachtree City woman who said thieves took $2,000.
“I would like my money back,” that woman said.
Channel 2 has reported scammers are using the Zelle app to trick consumers into authorizing money to thieves.
“From there, the card was actually turned off at the time, this person who hacked us turned it back on, turned it back off, three to four times,” Hass said.
In her case, Hass said they received an alert saying a stranger added themselves to their Zelle account.
“It said Jasmine Wild added herself as a Zelle recipient,” she said.
Right now, most banks like Wells Fargo, Chase and some credit unions are not offering customers fraud protection or refunds to their accounts if they’ve been scammed with the Zelle app.
“It’s terrible,” Hass said.
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Lincoln spoke with a Zelle representative, who said these scams are concerning and they’re working to inform customers as these cases continue to rise.
The company said because Zelle is a third-party money-transferring service and not responsible for holding account funds, they don’t have to offer any fraud protections or refunds — that’s up to an individual’s bank.
The company said they have been working with cybercrime support networks to spread awareness to consumers about these scams, launching an information campaign on how to spot financial scams and flooding social media pages with tips.
Consumer adviser Clark Howard said if you simply must use the Zelle app, don’t link it to your primary checking account.
“Zelle is married at the hip to your bank account, and if a criminal is able to tap into money in your account through Zelle, the money is gone forever” Howard said.
Howard said to create a separate account just for Zelle transfers, so if scammers do get into your app, you’re protected.
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“Within three days, his account was empty,” Hass said. “We would just like Wells Fargo to acknowledge, to see our proof and refund it.”
Some banks are saying they are not liable for these funds because they are “authorized transfers.” They’re saying it’s not their fault that if someone was scammed and authorized a fraudulent transfer, as it is a practice that is approved by federal law.
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