Warning: Don't fall for scam involving Bank of America/Zelle cash transfer

NEW YORK (WABC) -- There is a consumer warning about a bank scheme that's fooling customers, costing them thousands of dollars in just seconds.

It starts with an innocent looking text warning about fraud in your bank account, then a conniving phone call.

Even some of the savviest consumers are losing money, and 7 On Your Side has the warning signs and ways to get back your money if you've been scammed.

"I was sick to my stomach," victim Barbara Zyhajlo said.

She was out for a walk when the scam struck, receiving a text message asking if she just authorized a Zelle transaction for $1,375.50.

"I wrote no, and so instantly, two minutes later, I get a phone call," she said. "It's a guy, he says his name is Shariff, he's here to help me."

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She was certain the call came from Bank of America, but it was not. Both the text and the call were not her bank, but a growing nationwide scam striking people coast to coast.

7 On Your Side at our sister stations in San Francisco and Chicago flagged nurse and teacher who were taken for $3,500 each in the same way as Zyhajlo, a phlebotomist with the Red Cross who kept working to support her family on the front line of the fight against COVID.

"I'm a single mom," she said. "I'm trying to take care of my kids the best I can."

Now she's in the red after being convinced to use Zelle to transfer all the money in her checking accounts to a new account.

She had never even used Zelle before.

"He had me put my own name, and then that's why it seem like going to a new account that he created," she said. "(I realized it was a scam) maybe an hour after I did it, when I went back into my account and saw there was no money in it."

She immediately called the bank and open a claim to try and recoup her rent money.

"I get a letter back saying that my dispute was closed, they closed it," she said. "That they can't help me."

That's when she called 7 On Your Side, and we asked Bank of America to take a second look at the fraud.

"I was ecstatic to get it back," Zyhajlo said. "I was so happy."

Hours after we asked, her money was restored, the full $607.84.

"I love 7 On Your Side," she said. "I would recommend it 100 times over again...You guys are definitely my favorite news station."

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Bank of America has said it will not ask customers to transfer money between accounts or request sensitive information.


Privacy rules prohibited Bank of America from discussing the case, but the big takeaway is a warning to never transfer money or provide personal information as a result of an unsolicited call, text, or email.

Band of America says they'll never ask a customer to do it.

If you feel you've been scammed, contact your bank and start a fraud investigation.

But the most important part is to get a police report and submit it to your bank as part of the investigation.

Zyhajlo did not, but you'll have a much better chance of getting your money back if you get and provide one.

Bank of America sent us the following statement:

In cases like this, scammers may spoof legitimate phone numbers and impersonate legitimate businesses and attempt to convince individuals to provide their personal information. We remind clients that they should not provide confidential account information to unidentified individuals. Bank of America and other legitimate companies would not ask a customer to transfer funds between accounts in order to help prevent fraud nor request sensitive account information. We alert clients during the transaction if they are sending money to a new recipient that they should only send to people they trust. Additionally, they see: "BEWARE: Bank of America will never ask you to transfer money to anyone, including yourself. Don't transfer money as a result of an unexpected text or call." To move forward with the transaction, they need to click OK. We also have a number of measures in place to proactively warn clients about scams, and we periodically reach out to customers with information about how to stay safe and avoid scams. In addition, we keep clients informed about new scam alerts through our Client Security Center on our website.

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