AURORA, Colo. — Megan MacDonald, a second-grade teacher in Aurora, doesn't usually answer the phone during the school day, but when her bank kept calling last December, it seemed urgent.
"The person said that they were a representative from Wells Fargo," said MacDonald, who later realized the caller ID had been spoofed. "They asked if I or anyone had spent $3,000 on my account, which I told them no."
The caller texted her a confirmation ID and then walked her through protecting her drained funds, using her Wells Fargo app and the money transfer service Zelle.
"He had me search my own name, so I thought I was transferring the money back to my account," she said, later finding out the money had disappeared.
"I'm a teacher, that is more than I make in a month," said MacDonald. "So I had a hard time paying my mortgage that month. It's affected me financially a lot."
Contact Denver7 has learned she is part of a disturbing national trend — banking customers being defrauded through the use of money transfer services such as Zelle.
Even Congress is taking note. In a Tuesday hearing, Sen. Bob Menendez asked what measures need to be taken to better protect consumers.
"The banks are well aware of these scams, but have done little to enhance Zelle's security or reimburse defrauded consumers," said Menendez.
In a statement to Contact Denver7, the operator of Zelle wrote, "Zelle does not hold the funds. We provide messaging between financial institutions."
Wells Fargo wrote in a statement, "Criminals can spoof a caller ID number so it appears as if a call or text is from your bank."
The bank is working to raise awareness with scam alerts on its apps and website, but that was too late for MacDonald, who tried for months to get her money back.
"I am trying to do what's right," said MacDonald. "Just because their security isn't strong enough, we're getting punished for that or penalized, and it just doesn't make sense."
After Contact Denver7 reached out, MacDonald says Wells Fargo called her and refunded the $3,000 back into her account.
"Wow! That happened fast," she wrote in a text. "So happy! I hope other people can get some resolution as well!"
To protect yourself and your money, remember:
- Don't respond to calls or texts from what appears to be your bank. Scammers can spoof the caller ID.
- Reach out on your own using legitimate sources such as the number on the back of your debit card.
- Banks won't ask you to send money to yourself or anyone to stop fraud on your account.
- Zelle is immediate payment. Just like cash, it's gone when you send it over, so be extra careful.
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