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Protect Yourself Against Zelle® Scams!

Payment platforms like Zelle® have made sending and receiving money easier than ever. Unfortunately, scammers also use this service’s convenience and speed as an excuse to steal money from its customers. Scammers frequently utilize Zelle because the money they transfer is difficult to drown and almost impossible to obtain back.

How to detect a scam on Zelle?

Although Zelle scams are frequent, you don’t have to fall for one of them. There are many strategies to keep yourself safe and identify a scam before you send money.

Consider the following red flags:

  • An unexpected money request from someone you know or recognize. Speak with them first to make sure this request is valid.
  • Any message requesting you to send money to yourself. Scammers may imitate your Zelle account to make it appear like you are paying your own account, but you are not.
  • Zelle messages requesting a payment for a Zelle Business Account or to update your account. Zelle will never ask for money over the phone or by email. To send or receive money via Zelle, you will not have to upgrade your account.
  • Any texts or emails that have incorrect spelling or grammar. Scammers frequently use email addresses and messages that seem authentic, but include misspelled words, excessive periods, and other errors.
  • Text messages from a full 10-digit phone number requesting you to update your account information by clicking on a link or verifying a transaction. A legitimate notification will not include a link.
  • Messages from your bank or Zelle indicating that your account has been compromised and requesting money to validate your identification or cancel a fraud charge.  Your bank or Zelle will NEVER request money to assist you with fraud resolution.
  • Unusual requests to transfer money to a stranger from an apparently credible organization, like a bank or government agency.
  • The caller seems to be forcing a rush. It may be a fraud if they encourage you to act immediately and refuse to answer questions.

10 common Zelle scams:

1. Pay Yourself Scam: The scam starts with a text message from the scammer that seems to be a fraud alert from your bank. If you respond to the text message and engage the scammer, you will receive a call from a number that appears to be your bank. The scammer pretends to be a representative from your bank and offers to stop the supposed fraud. In reality, the scammer is tricking you into sending money to their personal bank account.

Remember, your bank will NEVER ask you to provide a one-time passcode or to send money to yourself. Your mobile number or email address can be linked to the scammer’s bank account if they manage to obtain the passcode. The funds you believed you were paying to yourself are now sent directly to the scammer’s bank account.

2. Social Engineering: The scam is used in several attack types, including pretexting, baiting, and phishing. In this situation the attacker is trying to make you behave against your better judgement. This might be accessing a fraudulent website, opening an email attachment containing malware, or just replying with your personal or bank account information.

3. Marketplace Scam: The scam can occur in many ways and is especially common with anonymous listing and virtual transactions. For instance, Sellers may post a tempting or urgent false offer. Pay attention to listings that insist on direct payment methods like gift cards or money transfers, certain payments can’t be refunded. In other instances, a supposed buyer may claim to have purchased a product above your listed price and request a refund before canceling their original order. The most common one involves a fake email appearing to be from Zelle, claiming that a transaction cannot be completed until your Zelle account is upgraded. This scammer is tricking you into paying them for an upgrade that does not exist.

4. Utility Scam: The scam occurs when a scammer pretends to be a representative from your utility company and tricks you into sending money or revealing sensitive information. In some cases, the scammer may report an overpayment on service and ask for your financial or utility account information to allegedly issue a refund. The scammer may also report an urgent notice threatening to cancel service due to missed payment. It is here when the scammer lies that they need immediate payment through Zelle or another direct payment method to keep your utilities running. These situations can happen through email, over the phone, text message, or even in person.

5. Job Scam: This scam occurs when a scammer tricks you into sending them money or revealing sensitive information often through email, social media, and on popular job sites. In some cases, a scammer may post an opening appearing to be from a real company, promising a tempting salary and great benefits for little experience. Before applying, be sure to research a company to verify its authenticity. Once engaged, the scammer may request an upfront fee for things like training, equipment, or background checks. However, a legitimate employer will never ask you to pay for a job. Similarly, be on the lookout for employment agencies offering to help you find a job in exchange for compensation. Chances are that the alleged recruiter is really a scammer in cover.

6. Rental Scam: This scam targets both new and existing renters. As a prospective tenant, a scammer may deceive you into submitting a deposit or paying your first month’s rent for a property that’s unavailable or doesn’t exist. Pay attention to listings without photos or reviews and insist on seeing the property, either in person or via video call, prior to making any rental agreements. A scammer might also pose as your landlord and instruct you to send rental payments through Zelle or another direct payment method. Those payments are being sent straight to the scammer’s account.​​​​​​​

7. Romance Scam: Romance scammers create fake profiles strategically aimed at gaining your affection and trust. Be on the lookout for profiles with few photos and an unusually high number of similar interests. If someone seems too good to be true, they probably are. Once engaged, a romance scammer will contact you frequently with intense flattery to establish a quick relationship. They’ll provide excuses as to why they can never meet in person, such as serving in the military or other remote commitments. Eventually, they'll ask you for money. Common reasons include travel expenses to see you, medical emergencies, and debt relief to start a new life together. If you refuse, they'll threaten your relationship and stir up guilt until you finally agree.​​​​​​​

8. Ticket Scam: Sold out and high demand events are primary targets for Ticket Scams. This scam occurs when a scammer tricks you into sending them money in exchange for a ticket that doesn’t exist. This could be a counterfeit ticket complete with forged barcodes and real company logos, or a photocopy of a genuine ticket already sold. Be on the lookout for sellers insisting on payment through Zelle or another direct payment method, keeping in mind that certain payment types can’t be refunded. If you’re unable to verify a seller’s legitimacy, it’s best to find tickets elsewhere. Whenever possible, purchase tickets on presale, at the venue box office, or from an authorized third-party seller.​​​​​​​

9. Investment Scam: Coaching and management schemes to fake cryptocurrency and investment companies are some forms of investment scams. Be on the lookout for opportunities advertising a sure way to make easy money fast, regardless of your experience, promising financial security for years to come. Be cautious of exaggerated claims and do thorough research before making any financial decisions. For example, you might see an “exclusive offer” to join a program for a limited time. It’s important to recognize this as a pressure tactic designed to rush you into making an ill-informed decision. If an investment opportunity requires upfront payment through cryptocurrency or a direct payment method, don’t engage.​​​​​​​

10. Small Business Scam: This occurs when a scammer tricks you into sending them money or revealing sensitive information, often disguised as routine expenses associated with running a small business. To protect your small business from scams, pay close attention to invoices and other communications requesting payment. Always make sure you’ve received the items or services listed, and that you ordered them. If unsure, confirm with other employees. It’s also a good idea to conduct regular audits of your financials, so you can be alerted of anything that doesn’t add up.

You may send money through Zelle only to friends, family, and other people you know and trust. To be safe, you should avoid using the service to send money to unfamiliar people, like online retailer or bidding site. Scammer are known to use clever tactics to trick users, but if you know how to protect your accounts against them, you may defeat them. It is important to trust your instincts. If you receive a message or payment request that does not seem correct, double-check the details, and get in touch with the business or person to verify. Never click on suspicious links, provide your login information, or agree to unusual payment requests from Zelle or your bank.

If you believe you have been a victim of Zelle fraud, please contact us immediately so we can assist you in securing your accounts. You may also enroll to Beacon Alerts, to be notified of real-time banking alerts and detect fraud sooner.