(NewsNation) — One woman’s life went through an upheaval after she was scammed while using the popular banking app Zelle.
Nahema Bryan told NewsNation that she was in a tough spot even before she got scammed — her previous landlord was selling the home she lived in, and the mother of three had to move quickly.
After Bryan found a listing for a rental home she loved, she filled out paperwork and used Zelle to send an application fee to someone she thought was her new landlord.
“I was approved for the house. After that, he texted me again. He’s like, ‘Well, you’re approved for the house, so you can send me the security deposit now,'” Bryan said.
Bryan transferred $3,000 to the so-called landlord. After having issues, though, Bryan called her bank to clear things up — and discovered she’d been scammed.
“I said, ‘Well, is this a scam? Can you try and stop it?'” Bryan said. “He’s like no, because it’s considered cash. So all we can do now is put in the report.”
Now, Bryan shares a room with her three children.
“At the end of this, when I ended up living with my sons, I was down to $500 in my account,” Bryan said.
Bryan’s bank, Bank of America, told NewsNation it will reach out to her.
Chris Elliott, founder of Elliott Advocacy, which provides advice for consumers, says Zelle is the perfect tool for a scam.
“If Zelle is not going to take the money back, you can use Zelle to your heart’s content and scam as many people as you want, walk away scot-free,” Elliott said.
Zelle said in a statement that protecting consumers is the company’s top priority, and that it invests in consumer education, including safety notifications, and works with bank partners to screen customer identities, monitor payment activity and remove “bad actors” from the network.
To prevent a scam from happening to you, Elliott suggested double- or even triple-checking the number to which you’re sending money.
“You don’t want to send it to a complete stranger. So make sure that you’re actually sending it to the person that you intend to send it to,” Elliott said. “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.”
Zelle also suggested watching out for texts sent from suspicious phone numbers and caller IDs, and to immediately contact your bank if you suspect unauthorized activity.
Should you end up getting scammed, Elliott said to contact your bank and ask to file a Regulation E dispute. Elliott said Regulation E is a lot like the Fair Credit Billing Act, which protects consumers when they use a credit card to purchase something that ends up being a scam.
“If you’ve made a mistake, and you’ve sent money to the wrong person, Regulation E protects you,” he said.
In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has said that companies such as Zelle are responsible when there’s a fraudulent transaction, Elliott explained.
“They have to help their consumer out and give them their money back,” he said.
Unfortunately, though, many victims never see the money that was stolen from them.
“It was really hard,” Bryan said. “It’s really sad that you have people working hard for their money, and here comes somebody who just wants to scam you out of it. They don’t care if you don’t have anything, they still do it.”
In a statement to NewsNation, Bank of America said it’s unfortunate when people fall for scams like this, and they try to get the money back from the receiving bank.
“However, there is no guarantee since the customer has authorized the payment,” the bank’s statement said.
During transactions, Bank of America warns people that they should only send money to people they know and trust, the statement continued.
“To raise awareness, we periodically reach out to customers with information about how to stay safe and avoid scams,” Bank of America said. “In addition, we keep clients informed about scams through our Security Center.