COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — “I’ve seen your segments before, and I’ve seen things that kept me from getting in trouble from scams that I’ve seen, and I just didn’t want to see anyone else get caught up in this same scam.”
That’s why Ellen Denisky called Better Call 4, to warn others about a new scam she fell victim to while trying to sell an old appliance online.
“I was buying a new refrigerator, so I was trying to sell my refrigerator online on Facebook marketplace,” said Denisky.
Denisky said she got a lot of responses from potential buyers immediately. The first person to inquire didn’t follow through.
“The next person had a profile picture, an elderly woman,” said Denisky. “So, I started contacting that person, and told them that I need a $100 deposit, just to hold it.”
Denisky asked for cash, but the buyer said she preferred to use her existing Zelle business account. Denisky agreed.
“I received an email, looking like it was from Zelle, saying that I had $100 in my account, but for me to transact with another business account, my account also needed to be a business account,” said Denisky.
According to that message, Denisky would need another $300 in her account to make that happen.
“So, at that time, I went back to her and said I wasn’t comfortable with putting more money in, and she said, ‘Not a problem. I’ll put the $300 in, and then you just have to promise to send it back.’ I don’t know why, but I said, ‘Okay!'”
Denisky went through the process, then got a message that appeared to be from Zelle, claiming that the $100 would be released to her once she sent the $300 back. She did, then heard from the buyer.
“And then she said that she accidentally sent her payment twice, and she needed me to send another $300,” said Denisky.
That’s when, Denisky said, things weren’t adding up. So, she did some online research.
“And saw that other people said this is definitely a scam.”
Denisky said she confronted the “buyer,” and communication stopped. She contacted Zelle and her bank but couldn’t get her money back.
“So, I am out the $300,” said Denisky.
Looking back, Denisky said she should have seen the warning signs.
“The email that they gave me for the Zelle did not match the person’s name. But like I said, it had the logo, it looked very official,” Denisky said.
Denisky also said the money was never accounted for in the Zelle app, only confirmed in the emails she received.
“That should have been another flag.”
All lessons Denisky said she learned the hard way, as she’s still trying to sell her fridge to a legitimate buyer.
“My ad now says ‘Venmo or cash only.’ And I’ll be a lot more careful, for sure,” said Denisky.
Less than two weeks after Better Call 4 spoke with Denisky, the Better Business Bureau put out a scam alert, describing this exact scam, step by step as it happened to Denisky.
Better Call 4 reached out to Zelle, and Early Warning Services, LLC, the network operator of Zelle, sent a statement in response:
Thank you for contacting us. We’re sorry to hear about this unfortunate situation. Incidents like the one you sent are rare and make up a low portion of the billions of transactions that Zelle® processes. However, even one scam victim is too many, which is why we prioritize consumer education and protection. Thank you for allowing us to contribute to your news story.
We want to share the below tips and information for your viewers when using Zelle®:
Only send money to those you know and trust. Zelle® allows consumers to send money from their account to someone else’s within minutes. It’s a great way to pay friends, family, coworkers, and almost anyone else you trust, but it shouldn’t be used to pay strangers.
Beware of payment scams. Zelle® doesn’t offer a protection program for authorized payments, so only use Zelle® to pay people you know and trust.
Treat Zelle® like cash. Money moves fast – directly into the enrolled recipient’s bank account. Always double-check the recipient’s correct U.S. mobile number or email address so the money goes to the right person.
Resources. Leverage our dedicated resources, in-app notifications/alerts, and our Zelle® Education Hub on our website (https://www.zellepay.com/pay-it-safe) with tips and best practices on how to safely use Zelle.
Regarding Zelle® for small business, more than 10 financial institutions offer Zelle® to their small business customers today. You can find more information on using Zelle® for small businesses here: https://www.zellepay.com/faq/using-zelle-small-business.
Lastly, when we uncover trademark infringement, such as misappropriation of our logo or of the name “Zelle®”, our legal team investigates the situation and aggressively takes action to prevent the continued misappropriation of our mark.