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Valley woman calls for more safeguards after falling victim to Zelle scam

Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-16 09:58:44-04

PHOENIX — With her lease coming to an end, Ashley Jablonski needed to find a new place to live. She searched online and found a woman claiming to be a California medical student with an open room in the Valley.

Jablonski says everything looked legitimate; they had a signed contract listing payments and policies. But after she sent her initial security deposit and first month's rent through the Zelle app, something changed.

"I call this girl and suddenly the number was disconnected, the email address didn't exist," said Jablonski.

She was out $1,200 but says being without a place to stay was the bigger loss.

"I didn't have a house because my lease was up already, and thank God I had family, some people that could take me in for a month at a time."

Jablonski says the stress started impacting her work, but she hoped that by having a contract the funds could be returned.

The Let Joe Know team reached out to Chase Bank. They escalated Ashley's case but ultimately did not issue a refund. Even though Ashley was tricked into doing it, she sent the money which can be seen as authorizing the transaction.

"I'm just hoping that in the future, there's just more safeguards," Ashley said.

Zelle's parent company, Early Warning Services, is owned by seven U.S. banks: Bank of America, Truist, Capitol One, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo. According to Zelle's website, if a consumer's phone is stolen or they lose money through an unauthorized transaction, the funds can likely be returned. But, in situations like Ashley's, there are no safeguards for people tricked by fraudsters.

Zelle asks victims to report scams, and offers these tips:

  • Watch out for spoofed texts or caller ID used in social engineering scams. If you receive a text or call from someone claiming to be your bank, power company, Amazon or other service providers, make sure to verify they are legitimate by calling them directly. For example, hang up immediately, and call the number on the website or the back of your bank card.
  • Be on the lookout for scammers calling and pressuring you to send money to yourself. Your bank will never call you asking for personal information.
  • Only send money to people you know and trust. Never send money to strangers or people selling goods and services online. If you must, use a credit card for payment protection but do not use a digital payment service.
  • Don't share personal details online. Avoid sharing your location, home address, phone number, and other personal information across social media. Also, don't accept friend/connection requests from people you don't know, and don't use P2P payments to transact.
  • Never share one-time passcodes sent to you by your bank with anyone. Your bank will never ask for your one-time passcode.
  • Sign up for any text or email alerts your bank offers. Most banks and credit unions warn of suspicious activity on your account. You can also be alerted when someone sends a Zelle payment. Immediately contact your bank directly if you suspect unauthorized activity. Please don't rely on someone telling you they sent you money. Check with your bank first.

Like Ashley, some lawmakers are calling for more active consumer protections. You can read a copy of one of the seven letters to major banks, here.

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