MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) – A man in Murrells Inlet ran out of thousands of dollars just before Christmas because he thought he was talking to someone at his bank who wanted to help him avoid falling victim to a fraud.
But instead, that’s exactly what happened.
Finding his undermined account of $ 3,500 was certainly not how Taylor Sellers planned the next holiday season when an apparent con artist contacted him just before Thanksgiving.
“I never thought I would fall in love with something like this, but it seemed like it was a professional doing it,” he said.
Sellers said they received a random text message warning them of an unauthorized transaction made through a digital money transfer service app.
At first he ignored her. A few minutes later, that message was followed by a phone call with a caller ID belonging to his bank, Wells Fargo. The woman on the other end of the phone looked professional and said that someone was trying to withdraw Zelle money from her account.
“She told me that someone had hacked into my bank account and was trying to send money to each other through Zelle, from my bank account to themselves,” he explained. “And to undo that I had to go in, add myself to Zelle, and send me money to undo these transactions.”
Zelle is somewhat similar to Venmo or Cash App, but actually does away with the use of an intermediary app and lets you transfer money from your existing banking app to someone at another financial institution. You can send funds to people by finding them by contact information, such as their email address or phone number.
She walked Sellers through the process on how to do it, as he had never used it before.
By the time he hung up the phone and checked his bank account, the money was gone. The salespeople immediately called Wells Fargo who confirmed with them that it was not them. The sellers then began to file claims with the bank.
“I thought I was sending money to my email address and myself, and they were able to access my email and I’m assuming they are routing a different bank account number”, a- he declared. “How can they link another bank account or divert money elsewhere using my email address?” I’m not sure, to be honest. I still haven’t understood this.
A letter sent to inform sellers of the status of its claims said Wells Fargo closed them after notifying “the receiving financial institution and the Zelle Network of the scam.” In addition, we have submitted a request to the receiving financial institution for the funds to be reimbursed; however, a refund is not guaranteed.
A spokesperson for Wells Fargo in South Carolina made the following statement to WMBF News in response to the Sellers case.
15th Circuit lawyer Jimmy Richardson said con artists have become increasingly sophisticated, especially in the past two years.
“It can affect anyone and – the push is panic,” he said.
And it’s not difficult for crooks to get your personal information to manipulate you into believing it’s legitimate.
“It’s reassuring when someone knows your name or knows certain information about you. Because at the level, you think, ‘it must be, because I gave it to you,’ ”he said. “But it could really be from a hacker.”
Sadly, he said there was not much to law enforcement’s ability to recover someone’s money after being scammed.
“Once it happened, it happened and you might be able to get help from your bank,” Richardson said. “There is very little the police are going to be able to do. Ultimately, it will end up in another country. And by the time they run it on five or six, seven bank accounts, there’s no way to get back to it. Too many rabbit holes.
Wells Fargo has provided the following information to help protect consumers.
- Never share your temporary access codes (for example, a one-time access code) or your PIN code with anyone who calls you unexpectedly. Your bank or the government will never ask you for this information.
- Avoid sending money or giving your account information to someone you don’t know or to a business whose legitimacy you cannot verify.
- Wells Fargo will not contact a customer and ask them to send money to themselves or someone else to prevent or stop fraud on their account.
- If you are uncomfortable with a request received by phone or text that you did not initiate, do not answer and hang up immediately. Contact the business using legitimate sources such as a phone number on their website or the number on the back of your debit card.
In an email, Zelle said that “robocalls impact multiple industries and financial services are not immune. The scammer spoofs a bank phone number and tries to convince individuals to provide their personal information. Part of our commitment is to inform and remind consumers that their bank or credit union will never call them to request sensitive information. They would not ask customers to transfer funds between accounts to avoid fraud. “
Zelle is working to improve consumer education by partnering with MTV’s Catfish host and executive producer Nev Schulman to explain trending scams and how to avoid them through TikTok; as well as launching a campaign with Vox Media to explain how scams work and how to avoid them.
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