SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — Our sister station in San Francisco, KGO-TV, has been reporting on a dangerous fraud that is sweeping the country. Imposters pose as bank workers and deceive victims into sending money through Zelle, the popular quick-pay app.
Scammers appear to be more daring than ever, smiling at their victims after stealing their money.
It happened to a San Jose-based Wells Fargo bank customer.
This victim knew it was a fraud seconds after pressing the send button. She yelled at the still-on-the-phone bank imposter. He began to mock her. She called the real bank and claimed that the bank simply ignored her. She’s not sure which one enraged her the most.
Lisa Landry of San Jose describes her terror at witnessing the scam unfold. “I’m like, ‘Oh my, oh my,’ I’m clutching my head, ‘Oh my god,'” she says.
Landry will never forget that moment. She watched as $3,500 vanished from her bank account.
The scammer who had taken it was still on the line.
“And the person knew I knew, so he clowned me.” “He made fun of me,” she stated. “‘You think this is humorous,’ I said. Is this now amusing to you? “You take my $3,500 and pound it in your…,” I said as I hung up the phone.”
It happened on a busy night when Landry was manning a booth at the Cal Expo Winter Wonderland.
“I was selling trinkets. Stuffed animals with light-up roses, you know…” Landry stated.
Landry didn’t have a credit card terminal, so she was collecting money through her personal Zelle account.
That’s when it all went downhill.
“I got this call from ‘Wells Fargo,'” she explained.
The caller claimed to be from the bank and that money was being taken from her account.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god, one of these people must’ve accessed my account, we’re on an open WiFi,’… this could easily happen,” she explained.
Landry wasn’t sure who to believe: the customers surrounding her or the man on the phone.
“I asked the guy, ‘How do I know you’re the bank?'” ‘Check the caller ID, isn’t that the number on the back of your debit card?’ he says. It was, and it fit. “So I just started chatting to this person,” she explained.
The man on the phone warned her that if she didn’t move quickly, she’d lose her money.
“Oh my god, whatever we have to do, we have to hurry, so I’m panicking,” Landry explained.
The individual informed her that she could reverse the fraudulent transaction by transferring the funds back to herself using Zelle. The man instructed her to remove her phone number from Zelle and replace it with her own name as a receiver.
“Here I am, feverishly attempting to prevent my money from being suspiciously removed from my Zelle account,” Landry explained.
She was still in charge of a booth, the expo was booming, and the man was yelling at her to hurry up.
“I’m worried about my booth; there are customers, I’ve got this thing going on, and I’ve even summoned my boss.” “I informed him, ‘The bank says my money is being interfered with,'” she explained.
“There’s so much going on, so many people, I can’t concentrate,” Landry stated.
As a result, she ducked into a restroom and followed the man’s directions. She sent $3,000 through Zelle, followed by $499.
Wells Fargo Bank text messages appeared to show she was getting her money back. “Payment sent, $3,000 sent to Lisa Landry,” the texts continued, and “$499 sent to Lisa Landry.”
However, when she checked her account, she discovered that the money was vanished.
Landry is still perplexed as to how that may occur.
“I think my name isn’t truly my name, in some ways?” I authorise money to be deposited into my Zelle account in my name, but it never arrives? Pwhooosh!” she said, gesticulating as though her skull was about to explode.
Landry had been duped into giving up her account details, unbeknownst to her. To get her money, they used her name and phone information to set up their own Zelle account.
And what about that caller ID? That was also a hoax — a spoof!
“That’s when I bolted from the bathroom.” I walked over to the concession booth. ‘Everybody,’ I yelled aloud to a group of standing customers. “I just got taken for $3,500 by a Zelle scam!” she exclaimed.
The man was still talking on the phone. Landry sought his bank account information.
“‘Sure, it’s 6-6-6!’ he said.” ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, you’re giving me the devil’s sign?’ replied Landry.
Landry immediately called Wells Fargo to cancel the transfer. However, the bank did not act as quickly as she had intended. Customer support advised her to make a claim, but Wells Fargo refused it weeks later, claiming that she authorised the transaction and Zelle had no fraud protections, therefore she was not entitled to a refund.
Landry was furious.
“Even if I may have authorised it, it’s fraudulent.” You’ve had previous experience with this. You are fully aware that the Zelle fraud exists and has done so for some time. So you’re going to refund my money? “That’s exactly what you’re going to do,” she stated.
But it didn’t work
When she called Wells Fargo’s fraud department, she was told that the bank does alert consumers about the scam.
But, according to Landry, it will be too late by then.
“Why would you call the fraud department at random?”
I’m just going to phone Wells Fargo’s fraud department for fun.’ “My issue with this is that the bank was aware of the scheme,” she explained.
Wells Fargo has repaid some clients who have fallen prey to the same fraud, but not others, and has refused to explain why. According to KGO-TV, the bank stated:
“We never want anyone to become a victim of a scam, and we are working hard to increase awareness to help prevent these terrible instances.”
Meanwhile, Landry is left to deal with the scam’s devastation.
“After it hits you and the drama of it all fades, you’re left looking at your account and thinking, ‘I just worked for two months for nothing,” she explained.
Consumer advocates argue that Zelle makes it too easy for scammers to hijack accounts because all that is required to receive money is a phone number or email address.