Zelle is an app that is supposed to make it easy and safe for you to send money to friends or relatives. But some consumers who never signed up for Zelle said strangers are using the service to steal money in a matter of seconds.
Zelle is said to be the new fast, safe and easy way to send money from one bank account to another in a matter of minutes.
But consumers like Brad Miller say they've been robbed in a matter of seconds.
Miller said he's banked with Wells Fargo for more than 29 years. He said everything was fine until recently, when he got an alert on his phone saying his Wells Fargo password had been changed.
"I immediately hop on my computer and try to log in and of course I'm locked out," he said.
Moments later, he received another email saying he added Lori Miller as a new Zelle recipient and can now send her money.
The McKinney, Texas, man said he doesn't know a Lori Miller, so he called his wife.
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"She says, 'No. I have no idea what you're talking about,'" he explained.
Not long after, he received a third email informing him he sent Lori $2,500 through Zelle.
"I'm watching all this stuff getting changed in my account. I'm watching money go out of the account and there's nothing I can do about it," Miller said.
He said he's never used Zelle before, but he has seen the commercials.
Tommy Green noticed two withdrawals from his account totaling almost $4,000, so he called Bank of America.
"She said, 'We can't stop it.' And I'm like, lady, I'm telling you that this isn't me. Somebody's stealing my money," he said. "That's a whole month's of Social Security."
Green and his wife filed a report with the Rockwall Police Department in Texas.
A detective looked into his case and confirmed someone transferred money from his account, using Zelle.
"Somebody had opened up a Zelle account, transferred the money and then closed the Zelle account," Green said. "I don't know how this could happen."
Cybersecurity expert Keith Barthold said hackers are using consumers' email addresses and cell phone numbers to tap into their bank accounts and send money to a Zelle user.
Zelle has partnered with 60 financial institutions, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, Capital One and USAA.
Even if you haven't enrolled with Zelle through your bank, Barthold said hackers can still enroll for you, at your expense.
"It's directly tied to your bank account, and if someone is in it, they're able to very quickly and irreversibly transfer money from your account to another," said Barthold.
Zelle tells NBC 5 Responds it requires financial institutions to verify that the customer has control of the email address or mobile phone number, most commonly through verification codes.
But Miller and Green tell us they didn't receive any verification code whatsoever.
In a statement, Early Warning Services, the network operator behind Zelle tells us, "We are listening to, and acting on feedback, working closely with our financial institution partners to resolve issues quickly, or addressing situations directly when the Zelle app is used to originate a transaction.... We and our partner financial institutions each apply multiple layers of protection across both the Zelle app and the mobile banking apps, respectively, alongside 24/7 fraud monitoring at the network level."
But Miller and Green said they're holding their banks accountable. They're both demanding refunds and answers.
"I got my mortgage attached to this account. Where's my money going to come from?" Miller said. "If there's a hole in the boat, how long are you going to wait to patch that hole?"
Wells Fargo did refund Miller the $2,500 about a week after it was taken.
"While threats continue to change and evolve, we continue to evolve our multi-layers of controls to further help our customers avoid becoming victims of fraud," the bank said.
But Green said it took Bank of America months to refund his money.
Bank of America said: "We do apologize for the delay in resolving their claims as internet fraud can be complicated to uncover and these cases required additional investigation before the fraud was confirmed…We are cooperating with law enforcement."
If you see fraudulent charges on your bank account, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:
- Contact your bank immediately
- File a police report
- Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if you feel that your bank is not cooperating.