Bank Of America and Zelle clients targeted in new high-tech scam – CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – It started with a text message.

“Free Msg – BANK OF AMERICA Fraud

Alert – Have you tried a Zelle

Payment for the amount of

$ 3,500.00 Count YES or NO or 1 to

STOP fraud alerts ”

Mindy Philips, a long-time Bank of America customer, said the message surprised her, so she replied “No.”

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Immediately, the Philips cell phone rang. The caller ID read “Bank of America”. She answered. The person on the other end of the phone calmly told Philips that their account was compromised. In order to protect her money, she therefore had to make a Zelle transfer.

“I didn’t hesitate because I thought my money was gone,” Philips explained. “But the moment I hung up I knew I had done something terribly wrong.”

By then it was too late. Philips lost almost $ 3,000 to the scam.

“I looked at my account and everything was reset,” she said. “I felt very vulnerable.

Mindy Philips (credit: CBS 11 News)

Others across the country have also reported falling victim to a Bank of America identity theft scam.

A CBS 11 I-Team investigation found this scam to be targeted and sophisticated. Scammers exploit a loophole in federal consumer protection laws by charging their victims with payment apps.

Unlike many random phishing scams, these scammers had enough personal information about Philips to make their story more believable. They knew Philips’ name, her cell phone number, and knew she had an account with Bank of America. All of this information they probably got from a data breach.

Then, when they called, the theft of computer software would have allowed the crooks to manipulate the caller ID to make it appear as “Bank of America”.

However, consumer advocates point to the latest stage of this scam which makes it irreversible.

When Philips transferred money from her bank account, she used the Zelle payment app. Money sent with payment apps, like Zelle, PayPal Friends and Family, Venmo, and Cash App, is instant.

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“This is the reason payment is the perfect payment method for scammers,” said John Breyault of the National Consumer League.

Federal regulations require banks and credit card issuers to provide fraud protection to consumers who use debit and credit cards.

However, users of payment applications do not enjoy the same protection against fraud due to a loophole in federal law on electronic funds transfers.

The law states that transactions on payment applications initiated by the consumer cannot be considered an “unauthorized transfer” and therefore are not protected.

Breyault, who testified before Congress, said the same fraud protections provided to credit and debit card users should be extended to users of payment applications.

“When consumers lose money because of fraud, we want them to be free,” he said. “We believe the responsibility for this should lie with the banks, credit card companies and payment platforms that derive billions of dollars from these transactions. “

Analysts have estimated fraud on payment applications to be nearly four times higher than on debit and credit cards.

When Philips called Bank of America about the scam, they were told to file a fraud complaint. Two months later, she said she received a letter from the bank telling her there was nothing the bank could do.

Philips then contacted the CBS 11 I-Team.

Shortly after the I-Team contacted Bank of America headquarters, the bank credited Philips’ account with the money it had lost in the scam.

Bank of America statement (credit: CBS 11 News)

In a written statement, the Bank of America spokesperson told the I-Team:

“In cases like this, crooks can spoof legitimate phone numbers and impersonate legitimate businesses and try to convince individuals to provide their personal information. We remind customers that they should not provide confidential account information to unidentified individuals. Bank of America and other legitimate companies would not require a customer to transfer funds between accounts in order to help prevent fraud or to request sensitive account information. We have a number of measures in place to proactively warn customers of scams, and we periodically contact customers with information on how to stay safe and how to avoid scams. Additionally, we keep our customers informed of new scam alerts through our Customer Security Center on our website (https://www.bankofamerica.com/security-center/avoid-bank-scams/).

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Fraud experts say the best advice to avoid falling victim to scams like this is whenever someone pretending to be from your bank, credit card, or payment app hangs up. If you’re still worried the call was legitimate, find the phone number on your bank statement or on the back and your credit card and call.


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