Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren harshly criticized the Zelle payment network and the banks that own it in a report released by her office on October 3.

She said reports of scams and fraud on Zelle were increasing and banks had refused to reimburse customers for most of their losses.

NBC10 Boston Responds recently heard about three women who fell victim to the same banking scam.

“I fell for it. Everything seemed legit,” said Dartmouth’s Kristen Tardi.

“The phone call probably lasted 10 minutes,” said Elise Carlson of Hopkinton. “$3,500 disappeared in 10 minutes. It was a nightmare.”

“I started crying. I was so upset I couldn’t believe it,” Beverly’s Tanya Harbick said.

All three are Bank of America customers, who lost $3,500 in a banking scam. They received a text message alert about fraudulent charges on their accounts, followed by a phone call that appeared to be from the bank.

“I got a call, it came up as Bank of America on my caller ID and the guy said he was from the fraud department,” Tardi said.

“They kind of explained to me what happened,” Harbick explained. “There was a fraud where someone was trying to send money to themselves through Zelle. And the only way we could fix it was to manually deposit the money into my account.”

“Reverse transfer is what he said,” Carlson said. “A manual transfer back to yourself. And I’m in panic mode, so I’m like, you can tell me to do anything now and I’ll do it.”

It’s called the “pay yourself” scam, and Bank of America recently issued an alert about it. The scammer spoofs Bank of America’s phone number to make it look like the bank is calling you, then offers to help stop the alleged fraud by asking you to send you money with Zelle.

The scammer asks for a one-time code that you just received from the bank, then uses it to register their bank account with Zelle using your email address or phone number. By doing so, they give themselves the opportunity to receive your money in their account.

Do you think you wouldn’t fall for the trap? The three women said it was very convincing.

“They know what they’re doing for sure,” Tardi said.

“I don’t know if he was reading from a script, but everything he said sounded right. It sounded confident. It sounded right. There was nothing to question on that phone call,” Harbick added. .

“He was even laughing with me like so sociable, so normal. It was so normal,” Carlson said.

All of the women filed fraud complaints with Bank of America, which were denied, and appealed the denials. Carlson was surprised to see the money appear in her account weeks after she learned she would not be reimbursed.

We contacted Bank of America about Harbick and Tardi’s claims, and Harbick said the money appeared in his account a few days later. But Tardi was not reimbursed.

“It’s just annoying. And I’ve been a customer for so long, at least 10, 11 years,” she said. “It’s just kind of a defeat.”

We asked Bank of America why they only reimbursed two of three female victims of the same scam and a bank spokesperson told us that they “review and evaluate each claim based on individual circumstances and customers can always request an additional review if they disagree.” with the initial decision.”

Bank of America also tells us:

It is unfortunate that people fall for scams like this and send money to scammers pretending to be legitimate companies. We alert customers during the transaction if they are sending money to a new recipient that they should only send to people they know and trust and never transfer money afterwards an unexpected call or SMS.

Additionally, they say: CAUTION: Bank of America will never ask you to transfer money to anyone, including yourself. Do not transfer money following an unexpected text or call”. To proceed with the transaction, they must click OK. We also have a number of measures in place to proactively warn customers of scams, and we periodically contact customers with information on how to stay safe and avoid scams.

Additionally, we post scam warnings on our security site (https://www.bankofamerica.com/security-center/avoid-bank-scams/).

Zelle tells us:

For the past year and a half, Zelle® has worked with Nev Schulman, director and producer on MTV’s Catfish, to help educate consumers about scams. More recently, we brought this specific scam to light, in a Tik Tok video, which can be found here.

And Zelle offered the following advice to help consumers:

  1. Spoofed texts or caller ID: If you receive a text or call from someone claiming to be your financial institution, be sure to independently verify that they are legit by hanging up and calling a number found from from a reliable source – website, back of your bank – issued debit or credit card, paper invoice, etc.
  2. Avoid sharing personal data online.
  3. Never share single-use access codes sent to you by your bank with anyone.
  4. Sign up for SMS or email alerts offered by your bank.
  5. Contact your bank immediately if you suspect unauthorized activity.

Be sure to check your bank’s website for more information on how to avoid scams and Google “banking scams” or see the information provided by the American Bankers’ Association at www.banksneveraskthat. com.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is educate yourself about these scams, so you know what to expect if you are targeted by a fraudster.