AURORA, Colo. — Contact Denver7 hears different versions of the same story: Your bank is calling, and they tell you someone has transferred a large sum out of your account through Zelle.
There is always a new twist — a new family losing everything they have worked for. And there is a new push to add protections.
Ryan Graham practices what he preaches, but for this Aurora music pastor, sometimes that can be difficult.
"We feel pretty embarrassed that we were scammed in this way," said Ryan.
His wife, Kassie Graham, got a call from what looked like the number for Chase Bank's customer service.
"They said, 'Is this Kassie Graham? We got an alert on your account that somebody is trying to make a Zelle payment for $2,000,'" said Kassie, who immediately asked her husband. "No, we didn't make a payment."
The Grahams didn't know it yet, but scammers are notoriously good at spoofing — or faking — real numbers.
"In addition to Chase, they do that with Social Security Administration, Amazon, and all the big names out there. And they impersonate them," said Roseann Freitas with the Better Business Bureau. "And so people have to understand that just because your phone tells you it's Chase, it might not be."
Initially, the Grahams were suspicious, so they called Chase Bank's customer service number on another line to confirm the initial call. They said the real Chase Bank representative actually reassured them, so they kept going.
"First of all, we could barely understand them, it wasn't very good English. So, it was a little bit of a challenge to communicate," said Ryan.
Here's the newer twist: the scammer then told them they could stop the Zelle transfer through a "wire transfer reveal." That's just another way for the bad guys to convince you to transfer your money from your accounts to theirs.
In this case, it was the Graham's life savings.
"Unfortunately, $35,000 was transferred from my business account and $20,000 of our personal savings. So, $58,000 altogether," said Ryan. "It feels like a big step backward after we've worked so hard to earn that money and save that money."
They said they realized their mistake in seconds and immediately tried to alert Chase to stop the transfer, but instead were transfer multiple times and eventually were told to file a claim. Within a week, Chase denied their claim before they filed the paperwork.
"Without even knowing our side, like we haven't filled out any of the paperwork. So that seemed odd that they could deny us without our information," said Ryan.
Similar banking scams involving Zelle and money transfers are so rampant that in a recent report, some federal lawmakers are calling for more regulations and consumer protections.
"The banks are well aware of these scams but have done little to enhance Zelle's security or reimburse defrauded consumers," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ.
In some cases, people do quietly get their money back. Contact Denver7 reported on an Aurora teacher eventually being reimbursed by Wells Fargo after being scammed out of $3,000.
In a statement to Contact Denver7, a Chase Bank spokesperson wrote:
“Due to privacy concerns, we cannot discuss this case specifically. However, Chase or any bank would not ask customers to wire money or to send money to anyone to prevent fraud, including to themselves. Customers may ensure that they are speaking to a real employee from their bank by calling the number on the back of their debit or credit card or by visiting their local branch. If customers believe that they may have been a victim of fraud or scams, there’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed. It can happen to anyone. What’s most important is to take immediate action. We encourage all customers who suspect fraud or scams to contact their local bank, credit card issuer or local law enforcement; they’ll be able to provide information on the best way to proceed.”
However, the Grahams said they have since received a call from Chase executives that the investigation into their fraud case is being escalated. While they hope to get their money back, they believe in a higher purpose.
"I believe God is good and that he's gonna take care of us," said Ryan. "But I know this world is broken and people get taken advantage of all the time. And so if we can help prevent that from happening again, then I hope that the story helps."
If you get a call or email or text about money:
- It's OK to hang up.
- Look at your account yourself to see if any money is missing.
- Call the number on the back of your bank card
- Set up account alerts so you know if large amounts of money have been transferred.
- Don't let anyone scare or pressure you into doing anything with your money.
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