TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Last week, the parent company of payment app Zelle announced new policies that could help consumers who lost money in “imposter scams.”
Zelle specifically noted consumers who were tricked by crooks, posing as their bank, could be reimbursed. But Terrace Thomas, of Tampa, claims her bank still isn’t giving her her money back.
Thomas claims her bank, Wells Fargo, denied her claim of $3,500.
The crook called her last month, she said, and impersonated her bank and tricked her into giving up information that allowed them to Zelle themselves her money.
She said she called her bank within five minutes of the transactions, but her claim has been denied.
When Zelle’s policy changed was announced, she hoped it would help her.
Zelle confirmed that since June 30, financial firms using Zelle began reversing transfers for those tricked into sending money to crooks who claimed to be a trusted entity, such as a government agency or bank.
In addition, there’s a new tool to flag risky transfers, such as a payment to an account that has never used Zelle, and a new mechanism that allows banks to claw back funds from the recipient’s account and return them to the sender.
These changes come on the heels of last year’s demands from federal lawmakers, asking for accountability from the major banks that own Zelle, citing $2.6 billion in impersonation fraud — saying banks created the “perfect weapon” for criminals but weren’t standing by the customers when their money was stolen.
Early Warning Services, the company that is owned by the seven banks that own Zelle, sent this statement to Better Call Behnken:
“As the operator of Zelle®, we continuously review and update our operating rules and technology practices to improve the consumer experience and address the dynamic nature of fraud and scams. As of June 30, 2023, our bank and credit union participants must reimburse consumers for qualifying imposter scams. The change ensures consistency across our network and goes beyond legal requirements.“
The new standardized rules are applicable to all 2,100 participating bank brands on the Zelle Network®. Our bank and credit union participants must reimburse consumers for qualifying imposter scams, including when a scammer impersonates a bank to trick a consumer into sending them money with Zelle.
Zelle has driven down fraud and scam rates because of our prevention and mitigation efforts implemented across our network of banks and credit unions. From 2022 to 2023, we’ve seen more than 99.9% of Zelle transactions reported without fraud or scams.“
Better Call Behnken sent that statement to Wells Fargo and was sent this statement back:
“We have reviewed the claim and are sharing our findings with our customer. While we cannot provide details on this case for privacy and confidentiality reasons, we stand behind our decision based on the facts in this specific situation. When a customer files a claim, we review and make a decision on the claim using the same Zelle rules, applicable laws and regulatory guidance followed by all banks.”
Wells Fargo also sent these tips for consumers:
- Scams often start with a simple call, email, or message impersonating a person or company you know to trick you into giving them your money.
- Common tactics include asking you to provide sensitive personal information to help stop a phony transaction or receive a refund, or faking a technology issue (“your account has been compromised”).
- Scammers will try to rush you into taking action, so you won’t take time to stop, think, and verify facts.
- Scammers can spoof their caller ID number and use bits of your personal information to convince you to reveal your access code and steal your money.
- Don’t send money or give your account information to anyone you don’t know or a company you can’t verify as legitimate.
- If you are uncomfortable with a request received by text, phone or video call that you didn’t initiate, don’t respond and hang up immediately. Contact the company using legitimate sources.
Meanwhile, Thomas said a bank representative called her to say they are not reimbursing her money. She said there was no clear explanation other than they don’t believe this is a fraud case.
Teresa Murray, consumer watchdog with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group says Thomas should file complaints with federal regulators.
“Here’s the policy,” Murray said. “This customer apparently fit it and now the bank is saying we’re not going to give the person their money back, and we’re not even going to tell you why, that’s wrong.”
Murray said the new policy is a step in the right direction but questions how will help some consumers since there is no enforcement. She said her group and other consumer groups will continue to fight for new regulations to protect consumers.