Peer-to-peer payment services like Zelle are convenient when you want to quickly pay someone. However, it's important to protect yourself from potential scams. Scams can be complex and difficult to spot. In 2021 alone, Zelle users lost around $440 million to scammers. Here are some tips to avoid becoming part of that statistic.
Understand What a Zelle Scam Might Look Like
A Zelle-related scam typically involves someone asking you to send them money through Zelle. This kind of request can come via a phone call, email, or text message and commonly includes some kind of threat or demand for urgency. Any time you receive a request for money, it’s important to take a second to consider the validity of what is being asked.
Zelle scams can come in many forms. Here are some common ones to watch out for:
- Financial Impersonations. With this type of scam, the fraudster sends an email or text message that looks like it's from your bank or from Zelle, asking you to confirm something regarding your account. The communication contains a phony link to a website where you’re prompted to enter your Online Banking credentials, giving the scammer access to your login information. Any time you receive a request urging you check something in your Online Banking or Zelle account, don’t use a link provided in an email or text. Instead, log into your account via your Bank’s official website or through their official mobile app.
- Shopping Scams. This scam involves the posting of fake products on social media or online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. The scammers request a Zelle payment to complete the purchase, but once you send the money, the product is never delivered. This can happen with fake online shopping websites as well. Always do your homework to ensure a site or seller is legitimate before making a purchase. And don’t use Zelle to make purchases from parties you don’t know personally. Use another payment method like a credit card if purchasing from a stranger. You should never use Zelle unless you’re sending money to family, friends, or others you trust.
- Friends and Family Impersonations. You may receive an email, text or even a phone call claiming to be someone you know, where they request that you send them money through Zelle. The request will likely have some urgency. Typically they’ll claim they are in an emergency situation and need the money right away. These scams can be very sophisticated, with scammers using phone number spoofing to make it look like a call or text is coming from someone you know. There have even been reports of fraudsters using artificial intelligence to clone the voice of a loved one. If you receive an unexpected request for money from someone you know, stay calm. Hang up and call them back yourself to ensure it’s really them, and be wary of any requests for money, especially if they’re requesting you to send the money to a phone number or email address you don’t recognize.
- Debt Collection Scams. Fraudsters, pretending to be creditors, may threaten to take legal action unless you pay them via Zelle. Keep in mind that a government agency will never ask you for payment via Zelle. Hang up and reach out to your creditors directly to see if you have any outstanding payments.
Take Precautionary Steps to Protect Your Zelle Account
Unfortunately, scammers are always looking for ways to steal your money, and Zelle has become a favorite target due to its ease of use and quick payment processing. Because of this, it’s extremely important to keep your Zelle account secure and to use it wisely. Here are some tips to keep in mind when using Zelle:
- Only send money to people you know. The best way to avoid being scammed through Zelle is to only send money to people you personally know and trust. If you are looking to purchase something online through an unfamiliar third-party, it’s always best to use a credit card for optimal protection. And even then, you should first do some research to ensure the seller is legitimate.
- Avoid clicking on links in emails or text messages from unknown senders. It's a good idea to remain skeptical about any emails or text messages that provide a link for you to access your Online Banking account. You’re always better off logging into your account via your bank’s trusted, public website, or contacting your bank directly through their verified public phone number if you have any questions.
- Enable multi-factor authentication. Ensure that your Online Banking account has multi-factor authentication enabled. This helps to block login attempts from any fraudsters who may have managed to uncover your login credentials. Remember, that your Online Banking account is connected to Zelle, and fraudsters can easily move money out of your bank accounts via the service if they are able to gain access to your account.
Zelle can be a convenient money management tool, but it’s important to stay vigilant and aware of how scammers could potentially utilize it. For more tips on keeping your finances safe, visit our Security Alerts & Tips page.