Fake renter scams now taking advantage of Zelle to receive money from victims

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

IRVINE, Calif. (KGO) -- A California woman was trying to sublet her UC Irvine-adjacent apartment when she heard from a potential renter.

"She sent me her ID which established some form of credibility," she said.

Bakersfield's Ralph Hunt was trying to rent an apartment in Utah.

"I started looking on Craigslist," Hunt told 7 On Your Side, "and I found a listing for what they called a basement unit."

Both the woman and Hunt got taken in and taken advantage of. Jung's fake renter even built a relationship.

VIDEO: Zelle criticized as 'fraud flourishes'; US senators pen letter demanding answers

Federal lawmakers have publicly demanded that Zelle and major banks take responsibility instead of blaming customers for falling for scams.

"She told me about herself. She asked me to tell her about myself," the woman said. "She seemed more interested in looking at the apartment."

The "renter" sent her a check, then shortly thereafter asked for the money back. She checked and it appeared to have cleared the bank.

"So I gave her, her money back and it turned out the check was a fraud," she says. "In total I lost $2,905 which is a lot for a college student."

The conman setting up Hunt sent all kinds of paperwork: applications, leases -- it looked so legit.

"Yeah in total I paid $1,100," says Hunt.

VIDEO: Got scammed? You can no longer deduct it on your taxes

As tax season ramps up, many taxpayers are finding out some losses they suffered last year due to being scammed are no longer tax deductible.

And that's when the fake landlord just disappeared.

"I've heard so many bad stories about people being scammed," Hunt told 7 On Your Side, "but I figured with Zelle being offered by my bank... the FDIC insurance would cover anything wrong."

But his bank did not return his money and the woman's bank didn't either.

Both Hunt and the woman want you to know, once you send money with Zelle, it is very tough to get it back.

7 On Your Side is reaching out to both banks and will have an update if they come through with refunds, but as our Michael Finney says, we are not holding our breath. Refunds have been scattered at best.

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!

7OYS's consumer hotline is a free consumer mediation service for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; we cannot assist on cases between businesses, or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord/tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please review our FAQ here. As a part of our process in assisting you, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not wish us to contact them, please let us know right away, as it will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.