Zelle scams are back in the news but with a new twist. A report from Florida says that scammers married the popular cash app and the Amazon Prime app and cheated one consumer out of $6,000.
Steve Villone of DeLand, Fla., was innocently flipping through all the apps he had on his TV and decided to try the Amazon Prime app that popped up. As is the case with most apps, there’s an initial sign-up when you first launch one – name, email address… and an activation code. And that activation code is what turned into a nightmare for Villone.
“I tried to do that. And I did type it in, but it didn't take the code," Villone said. What did pop up was a phone number with a New Jersey area code.
“I called that number, and the gentleman said, 'Hi, I'm from Amazon Fraud.' Then, the voice on the other end said, 'It looked like your account has been hacked by someone in China.'"
You know what’s next, right?
Just so happened that the person on the other end was a scammer who told Villone that they could “fix” the problem.
“Then he said, 'We're going to do a series of Zelle transactions to help you figure out who is trying to access your account,'" Villone said, then Villone bit. And bit again when the scammer asked for more, still trying to cut a deal with that mysterious Chinese hacker and get Villone’s Prime account righted.
In fact, Villone continued to bite for three days until the DeLand police offered to join in one of the scammer’s phone requests. When the police told the scammer that they were investigating the matter, the calls stopped. But not before the scammer had made off with $6,000 of Villone’s money.
Enter Wells Fargo
Villone reached out to Wells Fargo, his bank, which interestingly enough was the institution that signed him up for Zelle.
“Wells Fargo's bottom line was, this is not their problem?” WESH 2's Greg Fox asked. “Yep, that's it. And it left me shaken, upset," Villone said.
A Wells Fargo spokesperson told WESH, "It's heartbreaking when anyone falls victim to a scam, and it's a priority for us to help people avoid scams. We continue to raise awareness to our customers to prevent these incidents."
Zelle was sympathetic, too. "We do investigate every issue reported to us. Our website provides helpful tips for consumers to prevent themselves from being scammed,” a spokesperson for Early Warning Services, the network operator of Zelle, told WESH.
Be suspicious of pop-ups on your TV
As Villone can now attest, hackers have figured out a way to display pop-ups on your smart TV. And because consumers aren't use to seeing these pop-ups, many think something's going on that they need to address, so they click on the pop-up.
“Devices connected to the internet can be used by scammers to rip off unsuspecting consumers. Smart TVs are no exception," explains Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.
"These devices access the internet to stream content or allow users to search the web. That means hackers can use your TV to send phishing messages, tech-support ads or even fake bills for services. If you receive a suspicious message on your TV, do not respond. Instead, do some research and contact your service provider directly.”
To help you avoid falling for this scheme, Moody shared the following video...