The Zelle app is a person-to-person transfer app that allows for easy payments straight from a user’s bank account, similar to Venmo or PayPal, that’s “backed” by banks. Like most social engineering tactics, the scam preys on an individual’s trust.
Here’s how the scam plays out. You’re looking to buy an item such as tickets from a Craigslist posting and the seller, who you don’t know, asks you to pay for them through Zelle instead of PayPal, who provides protection against paid-for items that are never delivered. You don’t really know much about Zelle, but after a quick search, you discover it’s a payment app backed by your bank so you feel comfortable, assuming your bank will cover you if anything goes wrong. Nope.
Once the seller receives the money, the item being sold never arrives, the seller doesn’t respond to emails, texts, or calls. Some even close their account. When reported, the banks tell their customer there’s nothing they can do since the customer authorized the Zelle transaction. If you read Zelle’s twitter responses to these complaints, their response is “Zelle is a great way to exchange money with people you know. We recommend against using Zelle to pay for items sold by persons unknown to you.”
Now, this doesn’t mean using Zelle for your person-to-person payments app is a bad choice; it just means you need to be aware of what could happen if you send money to someone you don’t know and that you are responsible for the transactions you authorize, not your bank.
Zelle does have more information on how to use extra measures for safe payment transaction on their website.
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