TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tara Thomas has been trying since early last month to get $3,500 back, after a crook impersonated her bank, tricked her into giving up information and then used Zelle to instantly send themselves money.
Her claim was denied by her bank, but new policy changes confirmed this week by Zelle give her hope that consumers like her could get their money back. Better Call Behnken has exposed this type of fraud for years and helped many connect with their banks to get money back. In some cases, banks have refused, saying the customer themselves authorized the transaction, even if they were tricked into doing so.
This week, 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 and 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.“
Given that statement from Zelle, Thomas is even more encouraged since it specifically mentions consumers tricked by someone impersonating a bank. Consumer Investigator Shannon Behnken reached out to Thomas’ bank and was told they are looking into this situation. Behnken will follow up on this this story and the decision in Thomas’ case.
“I know (banks) are giving money back to some people and this was clearly a fraud case,” Thomas said. “I’ve basically been trying to be very, very budget conscious right now because I’m trying to just make it.”