Payment apps like Zelle and Venmo are a customer favorite because they are a convenient, fast, and easy way of electronically exchanging money between others. Zelle’s popularity and quick exchange of funds between one bank and another attracts more than just new customers. Unfortunately, it attracts hackers and scammers too.
With so many headlines about Zelle scams on the news lately, many users can’t help but wonder about the platform’s safety. Scammers target Zelle users and siphon off their hard-earned money through phishing scams. The truth is, Zelle is safe as long as you are careful, and you pay attention.
By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll know more about Zelle and how you can safely use the platform without falling victim to scammers.
What exactly is Zelle?
Zelle is a popular payment application operating a peer-to-peer (P2P) model. It makes it easy for users to move money and pay for things without going to the bank or handling cash. Zelle is the joint effort of several major banks in the US. It’s easy to use through an iPhone and Android app. Zelle also integrates with the mobile app of major banks such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase.
How does the Zelle scam work?
Zelle scams are mainly social engineering scams. Social engineering is manipulating or influencing people using scare tactics or fraudulent information. Scammers trick consumers into unintentionally authorizing money transfers by making fraudulent claims and promises.
One of the most common Zelle scams involves sending a text message or an email requesting confirmation for what ends up being a fake payment. Most users often respond to try and disprove the transaction. Instead of putting the scammers off, it opens the door for further communication. The scammers then call the user pretending to be from the user’s bank and pretend to give the user instructions that’ll reverse the claim. In reality, the money ends up in the scammer’s account.
Safety precautions when using Zelle
While the news may sound scary, most Zelle scams are social engineering. As long as you heed the precautions below, you should be relatively safe.
Only use Zelle for people or businesses you trust
P2P payments should not be used to send money to anyone you don’t know and should rarely be used for online purchases. Only use Zelle to send money to your family and friends if possible. Verify that the phone number, email, and recipient’s name are all correct.
Ignore unsolicited emails and text messages
Your bank will rarely contact you unsolicited. If you received a message from any party posing as a banking representative when you haven’t contacted them, ignore it. Reach out to your bank directly and ask them to check your account for any suspicious activity.
If you gave out your personal details before you noticed anything, that is, you fell for the phishing scam, call your bank so they can help you secure the account.
Use two-factor authentication (2FA)
Two-factor, two-step, or multi-factor authentication is a security process that helps secure your accounts by asking users to verify their identity using two different authentication factors. When you authorize 2FA, you’ll need to input a one-time password (OTP) anytime you sign in to your account. You should never share your OTP with anyone, no matter how insistent they appear. Criminals posing as your bank may demand your passcode for various reasons, but no legitimate bank will ever ask for it.
Don’t get pressured by urgent or immediate payments
If you observe any suspicious behavior from someone claiming to be a representative of your bank, a utility, or another institution demanding quick payment, it’s likely a scam. End the call and reach out to the business through official channels.
Scammers also send payment requests from businesses, banks, and utilities you don’t pay with Zelle to trip you up. Confirm from the organization’s official channels that the request is legitimate before paying.
Be cautious of anyone insisting on using only Zelle
Anyone who insists on transacting only through Zelle should send warning bells to your mind. If they say the only payment option they can accept is Zelle, then make sure the transaction and the individual are genuine before sending any money.
Don’t send money to yourself
Scammers may try to get you to authorize a reversal by claiming that a payment failed to go through or that your account has been compromised. Remember that banks won’t reach out to you unless you contact them first.
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