“They’re not robots talking to you. They’re actual people.” Zelle app users warn of latest scams

Boston 25 viewers continue to reach out about being victimized by scammers using the cash app Zelle, and they’re warning others not to get tricked.

“When people think of getting scammed, you think of maybe elderly people who aren’t as tech-savvy getting scammed. I’m 32 years old, and I got scammed. It can happen to anybody, these guys are getting smarter. They’re, they’re not robots talking to you. They’re actual people hacking into accounts,” said Andre Khatchaturian.

The South Boston video producer says a scammer targeted him through his company’s Instagram account. The “client” asked him to edit a birthday video for her daughter and offered to pay $300.

“She was older and less tech-savvy. So I’m like, ‘Okay, it’s a simple job, whatever, I’ll do it,’” Khatchaturian said. He claims the woman sent him $3,000 instead of $300. “And then she apologizes and says, oh, I’m so sorry… Can you send me the difference back?”

Khatchaturian says he waited until he saw the check go into his Bank of America account, then sent her $2700 through Zelle. Days later he says the check bounced.

“After I realized I had been scammed the person had gone dark on Instagram, that user could not be found, it deleted everything,” he said.

Khatchaturian says he believes the scammer hacked into someone else’s account to send him the videos he edited. He says he ran a Google search on the bounced check and the landscaping company listed was linked to a scam.

He says his bank investigated but told him there was nothing they could do because he willingly sent the money himself. Zelle and banks offer fraud protection for unauthorized transactions, but not for *authorized* ones.

A Federal law, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, does offer another layer of protection: called “Regulation E.” According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, if someone “induced” you into transferring the money—even if, technically, you agreed to it—your bank has to reimburse you.

Khatchaturian says he pointed out the regulation to his bank, but still hasn’t gotten his money back.

He says he won’t take checks anymore and will be more diligent in the future. That’s his advice for other independent contractors moving forward. “There needs to be more public awareness about these type of things.”

Boston 25 News reached out to Bank of America about Khatchaturian’s case. A representative shared this information:

“We can’t share information about an individual account, but it’s unfortunate when people fall for scams like this.  We provide information online about avoiding scams and caution customers about accepting checks from or sending money to people they do not know. We also provide this information when someone makes a mobile check deposit.  In cases like this, we attempt to get the money back from the receiving bank; however, there is no guarantee since the customer has authorized the transaction. When customers make a mobile check deposit, we disclose that money from the deposit is not available for immediate withdrawal and that the check may be returned after we make funds available. Clients can also go to “account details” to see processing deposit status. If a check bounces, the customer is responsible for the full amount, and this is disclosed in their deposit agreement.”

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