MONTEREY, Calif. (KGO) -- A woman runs into Bank of America with a Zelle scammer still on the phone, hoping the bank could stop him from receiving her money. Bank managers heard the scammer claiming to be from PG&E and trying to get more money. In the end, Bank of America said it wasn't fraud and denied her claim for a refund.
With scams on the rise, it's a minefield out there, just answering your phone or replying to a text.
A case in point: for a Monterey viewer who realized the PG&E bill collector on the phone was really a scammer, trying to get her to send money with Zelle -- she decided she was going to catch a crook.
Kim Lord was excited and determined.
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"I've got the scammer right on the phone," she said. "I know I'm gonna get my money from this bank, because I've caught him red handed, right?"
Her ordeal began while she was driving home after a long trip and her cellphone rang.
"And it said PG&E on the phone, and I'm like, 'Oh god, now what?'" she said.
A man said her PG&E bill was past due, and her electricity was about to be shut off.
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"He said, 'We're gonna have to collect your back payment. Are you familiar with Zelle Quick Pay?'" Lord recalled.
The man persuaded her to pay her PG&E bill using Zelle, then type in a confirmation code.
"He said, 'One, zero, zero, zero,'" she said.
Lord hit send.
"As soon as I press send, I knew exactly what happened," she said.
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She suddenly realized that confirmation code was actually a dollar amount -- and she'd just sent $1,000 to a scammer.
But he was still on the phone. She thought that maybe she could catch him.
"So I kept him on the phone. I said, 'I'm not comfortable with this. Can I speak to your supervisor?'" Lord said.
"And I'm trying to think really fast. What do I do now? Do I go to the police department? Do I go to the bank?" she said.
She drove straight to Bank of America and secretly put the scammer on speakerphone.
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"And I walk into the bank, and I'm frantically calling to the women who worked there, to come listen! Then I mouthed, 'Scam, scam, scam!'" she said.
The bankers listened as the scammer tried to get more money.
"One of the assistants, she grabbed the phone. She goes, 'Who am I talking to?' He goes, 'Ma'am, I'm trying to tell you I am the supervisor. This is PG&E,'" Lord said.
The bank managers then called the Bank of America fraud department.
"'We're gonna help you. Don't worry. We'll get your money back,'" Lord said she was told.
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But even the bank managers were put on hold -- for two hours.
"The lady helping me, trying to talk to her co-workers: 'Do you have an inside number?'" Lord said.
They never got through. The bank offices closed.
Her money was gone.
Lord filed a claim, still confident she'd proven her case that it was fraud.
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"I'm thinking, 'Great. I caught the guy, I'm gonna get my money back,'" she said.
But she didn't. Bank of America denied her claim, saying she'd authorized the transfer, even if she did try to stop it.
"We don't cover scams. That's not fraud. I said, 'What the heck's the difference? We have two witnesses and you're telling me this is not fraud?'" Lord said.
Bank of America tells 7 On Your Side:
"It's unfortunate when people fall for scams. In cases like this, we attempt to get the money back from the receiving bank. However, there is no guarantee since the customer has authorized the payment."
The bank did not say why its own managers could not reach their own fraud department in time to stop the money transfer. Lord says they did trace her money to an online Green Dot account that shut down after the scam. The Bank of America branch manager tells us she gets scam reports every day. She would not comment on how Lord tried to catch the crook that day.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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