Zelle, the standalone Venmo-like payments app founded by major banks, is still relatively new to the game, and its users — much like Venmo users before them — are unfortunately learning now that it’s easy to get scammed through the app, according to a report from TechCrunch.
Unlike a notorious Venmo scam, which involves stealing physical goods by using Venmo to pay for them with stolen credit cards or hacked accounts (which the payments company would then reverse, leaving sellers with neither goods nor money), Zelle users are being preyed upon the other way around.
Banks are unwilling or unable to do anything about the fraudulent transactions
Scammers will offer to sell things like phones or concert tickets, and ask that the buyer use Zelle to make the payment. Considering the app’s association with major banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, many are willing to take the seller up on that offer, only to have the scammer vanish after funds are transferred.
Unfortunately, according to TechCrunch’s reports, none of the banks are willing or able to do anything about the fraudulent transactions. Because the users authorized the charge, there’s no way for the banks to know that fraud is actually taking place.
Zelle does note on its website that you shouldn’t use the payments app to pay people you don’t know, but it’s buried deep in a FAQ section. If you’re unfamiliar with Zelle as a service, it’s easy to see how — like with Venmo before it — people are getting caught in the same pitfalls.