You might not be familiar with it yet, but hackers are very familiar with Zelle and are using it to steal anywhere from $200 to $6,500 from your bank accounts.
Zelle is a digital payment service that is pre-built into many banking apps for financial institutions such as Chase Bank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Zelle allows customers to send money on the spot to others using an email address or phone number.
Its speed and simplicity are what makes this feature an attractive one to both consumers and to scammers who use spoofed calls and fake verification texts to hack into Zelle accounts.
Author Bob Sullivan tracks online banking scams and has this to say about the Zelle hacking incidents: “The fraud we’re talking about today is a totally different kind of fraud where someone’s access has been stolen just like if someone stole your username or password to your online bank.”
He adds, “It’s a simple proposition,the quicker the transaction is, the quicker a criminal can steal. This is almost engineered for crime.”
All banking apps are vulnerable to hacking, but Zelle is embedded within banking apps, therefore, it is automatically connected to user accounts. This makes it a much easier hack than the rest.
Sullivan remarks on how Zelle really tried to sell its safety in the beginning and that its safety is the thing that became its greatest vulnerability.
“When it launched, there were ads screaming on TV over and over saying, ‘You can trust Zelle. It’s backed by the banks. It’s safe.’ I mean they really traded on the safety of being associated with large banks.”
Zelle launched in 2017. It’s now the largest person-to-person payment network, partnering with hundreds of financial institutions through their apps. Last year Zelle network saw $119 billion transferred between users, according to data provided by NBC News.
It is worth noting that many of the victims of the Zelle scam hadn’t heard of the service and were not aware that it was something linked to their account through their banking app until they began to see money disappearing.
Did you know about the Zelle scam? Have you been a victim of a similar banking scam? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below. You can also contact us for more information! Feel free to shoot us an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or even connect with us directly on our website!
About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears weekly for “Staggers’ State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!