Wells Fargo quietly replaces money customers lost in huge Zelle scam

The bank said it was impossible to reverse Zelle payments, even if it's fraud. But now, customers are getting a big surprise.

ByRenee Koury KGO logo
Friday, April 8, 2022
Wells Fargo quietly refunds victims of huge Zelle scam
Wells Fargo said it's impossible to reverse Zelle payments, even if it's fraud. But the bank is discreetly refunding victims of the widespread scam.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- 7 On Your Side has been reporting about a widespread scam using the popular Zelle quick pay app. Bank imposters trick victims into sending them money through Zelle.

Lately, imposters have targeted Wells Fargo customers. And the bank denied claims for refunds. But now, Wells Fargo is discreetly giving their money back. And it's happening quietly.

7 On Your Side asked Wells Fargo why so many customers were losing money to this scam. The bank said it was heartbreaking, but impossible to reverse Zelle payments, even if it's fraud. Now, without any notice, customers are getting a big surprise in their bank accounts.

"The money is gone," said Cynthia Marin of Concord. "It's gone. It, like, disappeared."

"Wiped my account out, had a zero balance," echoed Kelly Reynolds of San Jose.

"Oh my, oh my!" exclaimed Lisa Landry of San Jose.

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How are scammers able to take over your Zelle account -- all while sounding like a real bank employee? Here's how one woman found out, the hard way.

All Wells Fargo customers. All hit by the same scam.

It all started with a text.

"They were asking me if I had approved a Zelle transaction. And I said no," said Marin.

"I said no. Almost instantaneously, I received a call," said Reynolds.

"I got this call, it says Wells Fargo," said Landry.

"And the number was from Wells Fargo," confirmed Marin.

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Each time the caller claimed to be from Wells Fargo, saying someone was draining their accounts. They had to stop it fast, they said.

"Oh my god, whatever we have to do, we have to hurry, so I'm in panic mode," Landry explained.

"I was (in a) complete panic because all the money for my bills are in my account," said Reynolds.

"They told me to go on Zelle and transfer funds to myself," Marin said.

The imposters told them they could reverse the fraud by sending the money back to "themselves."

"First you need to go to your Zelle, put your name in there so we can go ahead and take that money," Landry said she was told.

"I had to go to the Zelle app and remove my phone number," Marin said.

The imposters told them to put their own names as a Zelle recipient, so it appeared they were getting their own money back.

"It clearly shows it was deposited right in my account," said Marin.

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A young boy's curiosity about the opposite sex coupled with his love for social media and the speed of the Zelle money app turned out to be a costly combination.

Actually, it went straight to the scammers.

"My money was gone. So when I went to go look, I had $6 left," Marin said.

"So my name isn't really my name somehow? I authorized money to go to my name but it doesn't go to my name? Poof!" Landry said, motioning as if her head were exploding.

Each filed a claim with Wells Fargo. Each was denied. The bank said they'd authorized the payments, and Zelle has no fraud protections.

"Even though I authorized this, you know it's fraudulent," Landry said to her bank.

"They said, 'Well we don't guarantee Zelle.' I was like, 'What do you mean you don't guarantee Zelle?'" Marin said incredulously.

"It was just, 'Oh well, you lost the money,'" said Reynolds.

Then, weeks later, with no explanation, the bank quietly put the money back in their accounts.

"Wow!" Landry said of her shock.

"I was very surprised. Very surprised, because I never got notification," said Marin.

"I woke up my husband. I said, 'Oh my god, I can't believe they did this,'" Reynolds said.

So why the about face? Wells Fargo tells 7 On Your Side: "Each situation is unique, and while we are not able to share specifics, our review may determine reimbursement is appropriate based on the situation or information. In each case, we follow the applicable laws and regulatory guidance."

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Officials are warning about a scam that's taking advantage of unsuspecting victims who make electronic withdrawals from their bank accounts.

"It's amazing. Amazing! Truly, I'm almost in shock probably," said Landry.

"It was absolutely shocking 'cause I had chalked it up to a loss," agreed Reynolds.

"Oh gosh, shout out to you..." Marin said to 7 On Your Side.

The scammers make it seem like victims are sending the money to themselves; they do it by using the victim's name and phone number to create their own Zelle account so they receive the money.

Beware - that text or call may not really be your bank.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!

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