Zelle is a convenient and helpful virtual payment app that allows users to send and receive money peer-to-peer. However, anything popular and manages money attracts hackers like sharks to blood.
Any money transfer app such as Zelle, Paypal, and Venmo includes cyber criminals looking to victimize their next target. Stay up to date on the warning signs and common Zelle scams.
How Do Zelle Scammers Steal Your Money?
Zelle’s advantage — but also drawback — is that Zelle transfers are instant and irreversible. If you lose your phone and the malicious actor can log in, they may initiate transfers from your Zelle account.
However, in most cases, scammers trick their victims into sending money, and not all financial institutions offer fraud protection. Scammers trick many victims through a tactic called social engineering.
What Is Social Engineering?
Social engineering uses deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information.
For example, an attacker may pretend to be your boss, your supplier, someone from your IT team, your family member, your friend, or someone else you know and trust.
These attacks can be incredibly sophisticated and trick even the most established and respectable companies.
Tricking The Two Biggest Tech Giants
Between 2013 and 2015, a scammer enacted a social engineering attack against two of the largest companies: Facebook and Google.
The scammer and his team set up a fake company and pretended to be a computer manufacturer that worked with the two companies. They also set up bank accounts in the fake company’s name.
The scammer and his team sent phishing emails to specific employees. These emails included invoices for goods and services the manufacturer had genuinely provided. The links in the email, however, directed them to deposit the payment into fraudulent accounts.
Over $100 million were scammed out of these companies before the scam was caught.
Common Zelle Scams In 2020
The malicious actor will impersonate a friend or family member. He or she may claim that an emergency occurred, and they need money sent right away.
This message may be received in several ways, whether through text, email, direct message on social media, or even phone calls!
However, you should always contact your family member or friend through the second method of communication. Video calling the person is the best way to verify that the person genuinely needs help.
The most common Zelle scam is romance or catfishing scams.
In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), people lost over $500 million to online romance scammers in the past year. In the past five years, people have lost $1.3 billion to romance scams. This is more than any other FTC category.
Take the red flags seriously. If you meet someone online, refuse to send money until you have met in person or video-called them several times. Even if you’ve video chatted with the person, remain vigilant for warning signs.
Often, these scammers are very patient. They will exchange hundreds of texts that seem sweet and genuine. Once they form a relationship with you, they will claim to need money.
The scammers will create realistic emergency scenarios, like a family member needing medical treatment or a passport emergency. However, you should remain wary of sending money until you have verified their identity and met in person.
3. Fake Invoice
Like the method the Facebook and Google scammers used, malicious actors will send emails or text messages that include a fake invoice.
This invoice will likely include a link for users to “pay” or “dispute” the fraudulent transaction. However, if you click it, you will be taken to a website that may steal your information.
The website may ask for your name, Zelle personal account information, credit card number, debit card number, or other sensitive information. This directly gives the scammer your information.
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