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Protect Yourself from Zelle® Scams

April 11, 2024

Who doesn’t love a convenient and easy way to move money? That’s why Zelle, the person-to-person payment service offered by bankESB, has become a popular way to send and receive money quickly. Unfortunately, it’s also become popular among scammers who use it to defraud unsuspecting victims.

As part of our commitment to helping you protect yourself from fraud, we’re sharing important information about common Zelle scams and what to do to avoid them.

First things first: Understanding Zelle

If you’ve used Zelle, you know it’s a convenient and trusted way to send, request, and receive money to and from people you know and trust, using only their email or mobile number. So, for example, if you go to lunch with friends and need to reimburse the person who paid the check, sending them money through Zelle is fast and easy!

However, it’s important to recognize that Zelle is NOT intended to be used to pay companies for goods and services, or for merchandise purchased through online sites like Facebook Marketplace.

The reason? Money is transferred directly from bank account to bank account, so sending money with Zelle is essentially paying cash to someone. That makes it an easy way for scammers to steal from unsuspecting victims and leave you with little recourse for getting your money back. That means, you need to be vigilant about who you’re sending money to!

Beware of common Zelle scams


The scam: You receive an unsolicited email, text, or phone call from someone posing as a representative of a company you know and trust, such as your utility company. The communication conveys a sense of urgency in asking you to pay an outstanding bill using Zelle.

What to do: Know that reputable companies never accept payments through Zelle. Don’t respond to texts and never click on links or open attachments. If by phone, hang up. Call the company directly using a phone number from their website or your monthly statement. Learn more on how to avoid and report Zelle phishing scams.

Facebook and other online marketplaces

Facebook Marketplace and similar sites make it easy to purchase merchandise affordably. Regrettably, they’ve also become a feeding ground for scammers.

The scam: Fake “sellers” request that buyers pay for goods using Zelle. Oftentimes, those goods don’t actually exist. So, if you send them the money, it’s as good as gone with little to no recourse.

In another scam, fake “buyers” target sellers of big-ticket items and ask to pay for the goods using Zelle. The “buyer” then sends the seller a fake Zelle email, informing the seller that they must pay a hefty fee to upgrade their account to a Zelle business account to complete the sale. The scamming “buyer” offers to pay the seller for the item and the upgrade fee, then shows fake payment confirmations from Zelle as proof. The “buyer” then asks the seller to reimburse them for the upgrade fee using Zelle.

What to do: Don’t pay for merchandise on these sites—including two of the most common, concert tickets and puppies for sale—using Zelle. If you encounter a suspicious buyer or seller, report them to the online marketplace immediately. If you’ve sent money, contact us. We may not be able to retrieve your money but can offer advice on how to protect yourself going forward. Also, be aware that Zelle will never ask you to upgrade your account because there are no upgrades!

Money mule

The scam: A scammer uses emails or social media messages to recruit you into receiving money from another Zelle user on their behalf–allowing them to scam money from other victims while using you as their cover.

What to do: Don’t be a mule! Use Zelle only to send and receive money from people you know and trust.

Pay yourself

The scam: You receive a text message from what appears to be your bank, warning you about fraud on your account. When you respond, the scammer calls you from a number that looks like it belongs to your bank, promising to fix the fraud and asking you for the security code you received when you set up your Zelle account. With this information, the scammer can set up their bank account with Zelle using your email and phone number. They then ask you to send a Zelle payment to yourself, to help “prove” they fixed your account. The money you think you’re sending to yourself will be sent directly to their bank account.

What to do: bankESB will never call or text you and ask for your personal or account information. We’ll never tell you to send a Zelle payment to yourself, either! If you believe you’ve been scammed, call us immediately and report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.

Remember: Scammers are always working to defraud you. Protect yourself by being vigilant and staying on top of the latest info on Zelle fraud and scams. Visit our Zelle page to learn more including FAQs on when and how to use Zelle.

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