Zelle’s new policy allows Bellevue teacher to get money back after scammer uses BECU phone number

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Americans have lost more than $2.6 billion to the ‘Imposter Scam,’ according to the FTC. Now, you may be more likely to get your money back if an imposter tricked you and you wired the money using the Zelle app.

“Oh, my gosh. Like, I felt like there was ice running through my veins. I felt stupid. I felt very taken advantage of,” said a part-time Bellevue teacher, Tiah Schindelheim-Rodriguez, who was taken two weeks ago for $2k by an ‘Imposter Scam.’

I received the call, it was the BECU 800 number that’s on the back of my card. I answered the phone and they said, ‘There’s been fraud on your card’ and would I like to freeze my account now? And I said, ‘Yes, of course,’” Schindelheim-Rodriguez explained.

Schindelheim-Rodriguez said she had no reason to think the call wasn’t legit.

“Everything that they said were things that I’ve been walked through in the past. They were able to confirm a lot of my information. They had the last four of my... I kept both of my account numbers. They had all my emails. They were very professional the entire time. I was pretty certain that this was BECU,” she said.

The scammers had Schindelheim-Rodriguez wire the funds using the Zelle app.

“When I first looked through Zelle, there was nothing there. And they said, okay, log out, log back in. The second time I logged out and logged in, there was that charge from Zelle for $400 and they said I had to go through the process where they had to push it through in order for them to dispute it,” she said.

Since its launch in 2017, Zelle has been fraught with fraud. In 2021, Zelle users reported more than $440 million in losses.

Until recently, if you used the Zelle app to pay a con artist the way Schindelheim-Rodriguez did, there was a slim chance to recover your money. But now victims like her might be in luck.

A policy change recently confirmed by Zelle says banks and credit unions now have to give you refunds, but there are rules.

You had to have fallen victim to the scam after June 30th and it had to be an imposter scam, pretending to be a trusted entity, like your bank.

Schindelheim-Rodriguez seems to check all those boxes.

When we reached out to the early warning service, the network operator for Zelle, the spokesperson couldn’t comment on Schindelheim-Rodriguez’s particular case but told us this:

As of June 30, 2023, our bank and credit union participants must reimburse consumers for qualifying imposter scams.

The new standardized rules are applicable to all 2,100 participating bank brands on the Zelle Network®. Our bank and credit union participants must reimburse consumers for qualifying imposter scams.

Schindelheim-Rodriguez agrees.

“I think the banks should be refunding them. I think if it was just a random number then maybe that person is responsible. But since they are spoofing or duplicating a lot of that information, it’s hard for somebody to know that it’s not the bank,” she said.

That is the same argument Senator Elizabeth Warren made to fight for this game-changing policy.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office gave us this statement:

Consumers have been scammed left and right on Zelle and it’s about time the Big Banks took action. These platform changes are long overdue and I’ll continue to press the CFPB and Big Banks to protect consumers from bad actors.

We contacted BECU and Zelle on behalf of Schindelheim-Rodriguez and are happy to report as of today, she was successfully refunded the full amount the scammers stole.