California woman loses over $18K through 'Zelle' after scammers text, call her pretending to be bank

LOS ANGELES -- Officials are warning about a scam that's taking advantage of unsuspecting victims who make electronic withdrawals from their bank accounts.

One woman says she never realized it was happening to her.

"I could not believe that I got scammed. I just could not believe it.," admitted Lura Ball. "I was so ashamed."

She says it all started when she received a text on her phone that appeared to come from Bank of America.

"I usually just ignore those, and I get a phone call from Bank of America small business saying there are several fraud attempts," said Ball.

As it turns out the text and call were from a scammer. It's called spoofing where scammers can change the number that shows on Caller ID to trick you.

They asked her to use Zelle, a service that banks use where customers can send and receive money. All together she lost $18,500 dollars.

"All of a sudden I started getting alerts from one of my other emails saying that I had transferred money to a Chase account and I said 'what?'" Ball explained.

Ball had just received a loan to start her cookie business called Lura's Kitchen. She says she is now struggling to pay for items on credit cards. Ball says Bank of America denied her claim twice.

Some worry Zelle is convenient but once the money goes out there's little you can do to get it back in a case of fraud.

Jamie Court from Consumer Watchdog says banks "throw up their hands and say 'it's not our problem because you authenticated it.'"

"That's not good enough. The banking industry needs to figure out what these scams are, and they need to let the public know, and they need to take a better policing role," added Court.

Bank of America issued a statement to our sister station ABC7 that says:

Banks would not ask a customer to transfer funds between accounts or 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 and never transfer money as a result of an unexpected call or text. We send fraud alerts to clients and regularly update a comprehensive online Security Center with information about avoiding scams. We encourage clients to contact the bank directly if they have a question about any transaction, claim or communication. We review and evaluate every claim based on the unique circumstances. Clients can request an additional review if they disagree with the initial decision.

Don't respond: If you're not 100% certain of the source of the call, email or text, then hang up the phone, don't click on the link in the email and don't reply to the text message.

Don't trust caller ID or answer phone calls from unknown numbers: If you recognize the caller ID but the call seems suspicious, hang up the phone. Phone numbers can be easily spoofed to appear to be from a legitimate caller.

Don't give out your information: Never provide any personally identifiable information unless you're absolutely certain the person and reason are legitimate. Remember: Bank of America will never ask you to send us personal information such as an account number, Social Security number or Tax ID over text, email or online.

Research and validate: If the individual or organization seems suspicious, make sure the request being made is legitimate by calling the organization through an official number from their website or consulting with a trusted family member or friend.

Now there is good news, after ABC7 contacted Bank of America, the money was returned to Ball and her accounts re-opened.

"It makes me feel that you guys are like angels," Ball said. "It was a very complicated claim, but after they received a call from ABC7, they were able to look at it more thoroughly, and I want to thank Bank of America for moving so quickly."
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