Zelle Scams - What Are They and How Do You Stay Safe?

  • By Bree Ann Russ
  • Oct 21, 2022

zelle scams meaning

The financial industry is booming, with innovative companies finding new ways to disrupt how we manage money. From peer-to-peer lending to mobile wallet solutions, fintech is the future of financial services. It's also a ripe environment for scammers looking to exploit unsuspecting users with deceptive offers and false promises of high returns. 

With so many emerging opportunities and applications, staying on top of the latest scams targeting consumers can be challenging. Here's everything you need to know about Zelle scams and how you can stay safe when using the popular electronic payments network.

What is Zelle?

Zelle is a network that connects banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions to send money between their customers. It’s like Venmo, PayPal, or other money-transfers apps, but available to people with many different bank accounts. There is also a Zelle app that people can download to their mobile devices for money transfers. 

The network is owned by many of the biggest banks in the country, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup. Zelle is also backed by many of the largest payment networks, including Visa and MasterCard. 

While Zelle apps and websites look different depending on which company you’re using, the underlying technology is the same. Zelle’s rise in popularity is credited to its rapid expansion to include major banks and credit unions that used to have their own apps for sending money. This consortium of banks and financial institutions has made Zelle incredibly accessible to an enormous number of people.

How to Stay Safe with Zelle

Zelle is a helpful service that can make life easier and help you stay on top of your finances. But since Zelle’s reach is so broad, it's also been a boon for scammers. Be careful when using Zelle so you don't fall victim to a scammer! 

Zelle allows you to send money to anyone with a bank account. That means you must be careful about sending money to people you don’t know. When you use Zelle, you’ll be asked to enter your recipient’s phone number and name. Plus, you can also choose to send the money anonymously.

Zelle Scam: Fake Invites and Phishing Emails

One trick scammers have used to trick people into using Zelle is sending phishing emails that claim to be from Zelle. They’ll claim they’re inviting you to join Zelle or that they need your information to verify your account. 

Zelle doesn’t send emails asking you to join. So if you get an email like this, you can be sure it's a scam. These emails are trying to get your login information to steal your money. 

Zelle also doesn’t ask you to verify your account with your bank account or routing number. If you get an email like this, don’t click on any links. Also, don't give them any of your information. Forward the email to your bank or call them directly to report the scam.

Zelle Scam: Fake Apps

Scammers have also set up fake apps for Zelle that try to trick you into giving away your login information. They’ll often have the same names as the real Zelle apps, so it can be hard to tell the difference. 

If you’re downloading an app on your phone, make sure it’s from the official Zelle app. These apps are most common on Android phones because Google has allowed a lot of scammers to publish apps on the Play Store with little oversight.

Zelle Scam: Bogus Promotions and Rebates

Some websites and apps have claimed that signing up for Zelle will get you a special deal or a big cash-back reward. In reality, you’re just signing up for Zelle like you would any other payment app. If you see a big promise or claim and you’ve never heard of Zelle before, it’s likely a scam. 

Some of these sites will try to get you to sign up for Zelle by offering a cash-back deal. That's because scammers know people who sign up for Zelle will probably use it to send money back to their loved ones. That way, the scammers can get your loved ones’ account information and start draining their bank accounts.

Zelle Refund Scams

Many sites that offer bogus promotions for Zelle also claim they can help you get a refund. For example, they might tell you that you can get your money back if you bought something online with your credit card. Again, these are just trying to get your account information so they can steal your money. 

If you think you’re eligible for a refund, you want to go through the proper channels. Go to the company’s official website or call them. Don’t sign up for Zelle; don't rely on these sites to help you get a refund. 

Remember that some scammers will claim to be from your bank or credit card company. Be careful and only give your account information to the official company.

Protect Yourself with Awareness

You have nothing to worry about if you use Zelle for a legitimate purpose. But if you have ever gotten an email from Zelle asking you to verify your account with your bank account or routing number, or if you’ve gotten a text inviting you to join, don’t click on any links or provide them with any information. Zelle customer service will never ask you to verify your account with your bank account or routing number. The best Zelle scam protection is to avoid using the app with anyone you are unsure about. Ideally, you want to use the Zelle app for sharing costs with friends and family. However, when interacting with people or companies you do not know, using more traditional payment methods is often the better option.

If you want to keep your information safe, invest in data protection. By getting identity theft monitoring, you can feel safer about your data and get notified if any of your information shows up anywhere it should not.

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