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Can Zelle refund money if I was scammed?

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  • 6 min read

Zelle is a peer-to-peer payment network that enables users to send money quickly and securely from their bank accounts to recipients’ accounts at different banks. This digital payment service allows individuals and businesses to make direct transfers without fees in many cases. However, as with any financial tool, concerns about security and fraud are natural.

This article discusses whether Zelle refunds money if you get scammed and how you can get your money back if you get scammed on Zelle.


Can Zelle refund money if you get scammed?

In most situations, the answer is NO. Peer-to-peer payment systems like Zelle, Cash App and Venmo treat transactions like physical cash. This implies that once you’ve sent a payment via Zelle, there’s virtually no way to retract it. There is one way Zelle helps get a refund when you have paid for some things but didn’t receive what you expected in return.

If you become a victim of a scam, banks often reject claims. They might say that these cases aren’t covered by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act or Regulation E rules, a law that safeguards electronic transfers.

This situation arises because victims essentially grant authorisation for these payments, even when scammers pretend to be bank staff to deceive victims into initiating payments. Banks only intervene if an unauthorised payment has been made from your account. For instance, cybercriminals steal your Zelle account password through a phishing scam and send payments to an account they control.

Also read: How long does a Zelle refund take?


What to do if you get scammed on Zelle?

If you find yourself a victim of a Zelle scam or accidentally send money to the wrong recipient, here are the steps to recover your funds.

File a fraud claim

As outlined by both Zelle’s policies and Regulation E, a transaction is categorised as fraudulent only in particular scenarios:

  1. Unauthorised Transfer: This situation arises when someone gains access to your Zelle account without permission, such as if your phone is stolen.
  2. Incorrect Electronic Transfer: If you mistakenly input an incorrect phone number or email address, the funds will be sent to the wrong recipient.
  3. Financial Institution Error: Instances where the bank makes an error, leading to an incorrect transaction amount – for example, sending $100 instead of $10.

If you’ve experienced a loss for any of these reasons and believe you’re eligible for coverage, you can contact your bank to inquire about a Regulation E dispute.

Typically, there’s a window of around 60 days from the date of your latest account statement to file a claim. Your bank may request a written account of the incident, along with specific details such as:

  • Your account number.
  • Information concerning unauthorised transactions or errors, including amounts, dates, and transaction IDs.
  • A clear timeline of the dispute, including when you received the statement that showed the unauthorised transaction and when you alerted the bank.
  • Details about the resolution you’re seeking.

Banks generally have approximately 45 days to investigate these claims and usually require about two days to provide temporary reimbursement.


Try to cancel the payment

If the person you sent money to hasn’t accepted the payment, there is a slim possibility that you can cancel the transfer. To cancel a payment, follow the steps below.

  • Open the Zelle app or access the Zelle section in your mobile banking app.
  • Locate the specific payment you wish to cancel.
  • Tap on the option that says Cancel This Payment.
  • The payment will subsequently be refunded through the initial payment method you used.

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Request a refund from the recipient

One of the initial steps is always to attempt to recover the transferred money by asking the recipient to send it back. To request a refund from the recipient, follow the steps below.

  • Open the Zelle app or your bank’s mobile app and tap on the Request option.
  • Find the contact details of the person you sent money to.
  • Enter the amount you want to request.
  • Include a note or message if necessary.
  • Tap Request.

The app will notify you or you’ll receive an email if the person declines the request.


Report the scam

If you can’t cancel the transaction or convince the scammer to return your money, it’s important to inform Zelle’s customer support about the scam.

Even though Zelle specifies that they can’t directly help retrieve lost money, reporting the scam is valuable. This aids in recognising future scams and notifying Zelle about the scammer.

You can use Zelle’s online form to report the scam, providing as much detail as possible. Additionally, you can report online fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through reportfraud.ftc.gov.

Millennials, Gen Z most likely to lose money to tech support scams: Survey

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Report the fraud and request a chargeback from the bank

Your bank’s fraud team might be more helpful than talking directly to Zelle. Sometimes, you could even request a chargeback, which means returning your lost money. Get in touch with your bank’s fraud department. You can use their official phone number or their mobile banking app.

Tell them you’ve been scammed and are trying to get a chargeback. Share all the details about the scam and the transaction, like when and how much money was involved and who got the money. Ask them to look into it. They might want you to give them proof and write a request. If they’re not helping or taking too long, you can let the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) know about it.


Freeze your credit

If you have shared important details with a scammer, it’s a good idea to freeze your credit. Scammers can use info like your name, Social Security number (SSN), or bank details to make accounts or get loans in your name.

A credit freeze blocks anyone from checking your credit report and starting new accounts using your name. Call the three big credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, and ask for a credit freeze to freeze your credit.


File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) watches over and talks about scams. You should let the FTC know if you’ve lost money or shared info that could be used to steal your identity, like your name, address, credit card number, or Social Security number (SSN).

Tell the authorities about the scam by dialling 1-877-FTC-HELP or going to reportfraud.ftc.gov.

Also read: What to do if I got scammed on Cash App?

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Akash Singh

Akash is a law graduate who likes to go for bike rides on the weekends soul-searching for answers to his many existential questions. You can contact him here: [email protected]

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