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7 Most Common Zelle Scams to Watch Out For and How They Workby@marcusleary
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7,641 reads

7 Most Common Zelle Scams to Watch Out For and How They Work

by Marcus LearyJuly 29th, 2023
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When sending money to a friend or family member, there’s no service more convenient than Zelle. With Zelle, transferring money from one bank account to another is as simple as knowing the other person’s phone number. Unfortunately, Zelle’s convenience is why so many scammers gravitate toward it. And with Zelle’s popularity rising, scammers are showing up everywhere.
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When sending money to a friend or family member, there’s no service more convenient than Zelle.


With Zelle, transferring money from one bank account to another is as simple as knowing the other person’s phone number.


Unfortunately, Zelle’s convenience is why so many scammers gravitate toward it. And with Zelle’s popularity rising, scammers are showing up everywhere.


Can I Get Money Back From Zelle If I Get Scammed?

Believe it or not, 90% of people caught in a Zelle-related scam DO NOT get their money back. This is the most important thing to remember when it comes to Zelle scams. It doesn’t matter how much evidence you have of getting scammed; your bank will mostly likely not refund your money.


Unlike money transferring services such as PayPal, there is no purchase protection when it comes to Zelle, despite the heavy connections the service has with most of the major banks. Zelle scams are tricky and easy to get wrapped up in. The best way to protect yourself is to know what to look for.


The likelihood of getting your money back after a Zelle scam.


The 7 Most Common Zelle Scams

Once you know how these common Zelle scams work, you can save yourself and others you know from a lot of problems.


1. The Random Email or Text Message Scam

This technique is simple and less likely to work, but scammers try it anyway.


How it works: This one involves a scammer sending the victim a random email or text message with a link in it, either at random or after they’ve had a conversation with the scammer. Once the victim clicks the link, malware is downloaded to their computer or cell phone.


Because Zelle tends to be less secure than other financial apps, the downloaded malware hijacks the victim’s Zelle account, allowing the scammer to take up to $2,500 out of the victim’s bank account per day.


How to avoid this scam: Be very careful with what links you choose to click on.


If the text or email with the link on it looks suspicious, just leave it alone.

2. The Impersonation Zelle Scam

This scam involves a person or company that the victim knows contacting them about money.


How it works: The victim receives a text or email from their “water company” asking for a late payment through Zelle.


The text will sell the idea that using Zelle is the most convenient option, and since it’s the “company” itself contacting the victim, it’s easy to trust the text.


This scam can also come in the form of a friend or family member who’s actually a scammer that spoofed their number. The scammer will inform the victim that they’ve had an emergency and they need money fast. It just so happens that Zelle is the quickest way to help them out. Once the victim sends the money to their “friend,” it’s gone for good.


How to avoid this scam: No reputable business will ask for payment through Zelle. The Better Business Bureau does not approve Zelle.


For friends and family members, call or text the sender right away and confirm the situation. You may trust the person contacting you, but there’s a high chance that’s not really them.


It's not easy to spot a spoofed email. Does the person sound like they normally would?

3. The Fake Job Scam

With so many people looking for work online, it’s only natural for scammers to see an opportunity.


How it works: After getting hired for a fake job through an online job board, the scammer sends the victim a payment request through Zelle to buy supplies to get started.


Once the victim sends the money, they never hear from the “hiring manager” again.

This scam is a classic one that most people can see through at this point. In 2023, scammers have added a small twist that’s, unfortunately, working on many people.


With this twist, the scammer sends a check to the victim for around $2,000 to buy a laptop or some other high-ticket tool for the job. After the victim deposits the check, they are instructed to send the money through Zelle to another contact to purchase the tool. After the victim sends the money, the check bounces, and the money comes right out of their account.


How to avoid this scam: No job is going to send you money in order for you to get started. If the job needs to send you equipment, you don’t need to be a middleman.


Also, if the job is on a third-party job site but can’t be found on the official company's page, it’s a fake.


4. The Facebook Marketplace Zelle Scam

This scam involves many steps and can happen with any auction-based website, but it’s mostly prevalent on Facebook Marketplace due to its popularity.


How it works:

  1. The scammer browses through Facebook Marketplace, looking for someone selling a high-ticket item. For this example, let’s say the item is a $500 dollar washing machine.
  2. Once the scammer finds the perfect victim, they ask for personal information. The scammer manages to talk the victim into giving up the name of their bank and their account number. The scammer explains that they will deposit the money directly into the victim's bank account.
  3. The scammer then looks for more personal information about the victim on Facebook, like the victim’s age.
  4. The scammer calls the victim’s bank, pretending to be them. The scammer explains that they tried to deposit $1,000 into the account, but it’s not there, and they need the money right away. The bank, wanting to keep the client happy, issues a temporary $1,000 provisional credit.
  5. The scammer will then call the victim, telling them that they accidentally deposited twice the amount of money. The scammer instructs the victim to send them $500 dollars through Zelle, which the victim does.
  6. Later on, the bank retracts the provisional credit, leaving the victim down $500.


How to avoid this scam: Never give out your banking information to anyone you don’t know.


Also, in general, don’t send money through Zelle to anyone you don’t know.


If you list something here, always watch out for scammers.

5. Swipe Left: The Dating Scam

When looking for love, make sure the other person’s not looking for your money.


How it works: A victim lands on a fake dating profile and gets catfished by a scammer to send them money through Zelle.


By the time the victim understands what’s going on, it’s too late.


This scam usually takes a good amount of work for the scammer, who has to send hundreds of messages to the victim in order to gain their trust. However, in 2023, scammers have it easy by using AI to produce these messages.


How to avoid this scam: Texting might be convenient, but a phone call goes a long way when it comes to figuring out who you’re talking to.

6. The Fake Puppy Scam

It’s tough to resist a cute animal. Scammers know that.


How it works:

This type of Zelle scam was named after a woman who thought she was adopting a dog named Lilly from a seller she found online.


The scammer asked for over $4,000 for the dog, insurance, and a pressurized crate in a series of Zelle payments.


By the time she figured it out, the scammer was long gone.


How to avoid this scam:

If you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on a pet, it’s a good idea to make the exchange in person.


Also, this scam doesn’t have to be a puppy; it can be anything, from a car to a PS5. Always meet in person if you’re going to spend large amounts of money.


Don't let the cuteness trick you


7. The Kid With Candy Scam

Yes, kids can be scammers too.


How it works:

A scammer, or a group of scammers, approaches a victim, asking for money in exchange for candy, a donation, or some other small item.


The scammer knows that in 2023, most people aren’t carrying around cash anymore. So when the victim says they don’t have any money on them, the scammer quickly mentions that they accept donations through Zelle. The victim eventually caves and says yes.


The scammer then talks the victim into giving them their phone to add their phone number to their Zelle account. Once the scammer has access to the victim’s phone, they work their scamming magic to send themselves, or a middleman, as much money as they can.


How to avoid this scam:

Don’t hand your phone to anyone you don’t know.


Better yet, just don’t send anyone money through Zelle that you don’t know, no matter how adorable the kid is.

How To Protect Yourself From Zelle Scams

There are many more Zelle-based scams out there outside of the ones listed above. Here are some general rules for protecting yourself from these scams:


  • Carefully inspect every email you get from Zelle, no matter how authentic they look. Remember that you never have to pay money to get a job.
  • Check the sender’s email address every time. Look for “@Zellepay.com.” If the email address ends in any other domain extension, delete the email and block them.
  • Remember that a bank will never ask for your login ID or password over the phone. Turn on two-factor authentication for the Zelle app. The extra step makes it harder for scammers to get into your account.
  • Keep a close eye on your bank statements. If a scammer gets into your Zelle account, they’ll sometimes send small amounts of money to themselves and hope you don’t notice.
  • Don’t take any chances. Only send money through Zelle to someone that you know.

How To Report a Zelle Scammer

If you have a Zelle account, you can contact customer support at 1-844-428-8542.


If you get scammed and you don’t have a Zelle account, you’ll have to contact your bank’s fraud department.


If you want to try and stop the scammer from getting someone else, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.


Conclusion

Yes, Zelle is convenient. Convenient for you and convenient for scammers.


When sending money to people you don’t know, avoid Zelle at all costs.