Fraud Schemes That Target Payment Methods

Scammers will take your money any way they can get it. However, two other payment methods are now at the top of their list: Zelle® and electronic wire transfers. Even if you find yourself in a situation that appears legitimate, a request to use one of these two methods to pay for something could signal trouble.

Protect your bank account by learning how to spot these financial scams.

Common Financial Scam Scenarios

Scammers often entice victims by creating fake scenarios that request you to hand over your money to resolve them. Their tactics include:

  • Impersonating a well-known organization or company you’ve done business with in the past. This includes online retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Apple, online security or technology companies like McAfee, Norton, and Microsoft, charities, federal agencies, local utility companies, or your own financial institution. Fraudsters may use the exact name of popular companies or change the name slightly.
  • Pressuring you to act quickly. Crooks don’t want to give you time to check out their story. They may falsely claim you could lose your job, business, or even be arrested if you don’t do what they ask. These threats may be subtle or outright.
  • Claiming you’ve won the lottery or sweepstakes. There’s only one catch — you have to pay a small fee to receive the money. Once you pay the fee, you never receive the prize since the letter, phone call, text or email notification was a lie.

 Preferred Payment Methods

Crooks insist on payment methods that are quick and convenient — for them. The sooner they can get their hands on the money, the sooner they can disappear. Victims may be asked to fulfill the request for money by paying through Zelle or a bank wire transfer.

  • Zelle is a peer-to-peer payment app that’s linked to your bank account. It’s a fast way to send and receive money using either a phone number or email address.
  • Wire Transfers allow you to send money from one bank account to another through your online banking portal.

 Once you send money using these methods, crooks withdraw the funds and close the receiving account so the transaction can’t be reversed or recovered.

 Financial Scam Red Flags

 If you receive an unsolicited request to send money to someone you’ve never met in person, it could be a scam. Stay alert to these common scams:

  • Zelle messages from someone you’ve never met or barely know.
  • Subtle threats of financial or physical harm to you, your friends, or family members if the money isn’t sent by a specific deadline.
  • Payment is only accepted through non-traceable means such as cash or gift cards.
  • The individual requesting the money or personal information encourages you to keep the conversation secret.

 Protect Yourself From Financial Scams

 Verify requests for payment by contacting the company or person through a known phone number.

  • Tell someone about the communication.
  • Never send money to anyone you’ve never met in person.
  • Don’t rely on caller ID to verify a call or text message as legitimate. Crooks will spoof names and numbers so it appears as if they’re coming from a trusted company.

Remember that legitimate organizations won’t threaten you or require immediate payment and will allow time to verify that they are who they claim to be. If you need assistance with your bank account or any type of requested payment, call your bank directly using the number on your debit card or on the bank’s website. Just be sure to type in the bank’s website address directly into your browser instead of clicking on any link sent to you.

Awareness is key to keeping your financial accounts safe. If you believe you sent a Zelle payment or wired money to a fraudster, contact us immediately at 800.462.8328. We will work to protect your account from further fraudulent charges.


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Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or GreenPath Financial Wellness counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.

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