LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Officials are warning of a scam that takes advantage of unsuspecting victims who make electronic withdrawals from their bank accounts.

A woman says she never realized it was happening to her.

“I couldn’t believe I had been scammed. I just couldn’t believe it,” admitted Lura Ball. “I was so ashamed.”

She says it all started when she received a text on her phone that appeared to be from Bank of America.

“Usually I ignore them and get a phone call from a small business at Bank of America saying there are multiple fraud attempts,” Ball said.

Turns out the text and call was from a scammer. This is called caller ID spoofing where scammers can change the number that shows on the caller ID to trick you.

They asked him to use Zelle, a service used by banks where customers can send and receive money. In total, she lost $18,500.

“All of a sudden I started getting alerts from one of my other emails saying I had transferred money to a hunting account and I said ‘what? ‘” Ball explained.

Ball had just received a loan to start his cookie business called Lura’s Kitchen. She says she now finds it difficult to pay for items with credit cards. Ball says Bank of America twice denied his request.

Some fear that Zelle is convenient, but once the money is spent, there’s not much you can do to get it back in case of fraud.

Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog says banks “raise their hands and say ‘it’s not our problem because you authenticated it'”.

“It’s not good enough. The banking industry needs to understand what these scams are, and they need to let the public know, and they need to do better policing,” Court added.

Bank of America released a statement to Eyewitness News that says:

Banks would not ask a customer to transfer funds between accounts or request sensitive account information. We alert customers during the transaction if they are sending money to a new recipient that they should only send to people they trust and never transfer money as a result of a call or of an unexpected SMS. We send fraud alerts to customers and regularly update a comprehensive online security center with information on how to avoid scams. We encourage customers to contact the bank directly if they have a question regarding a transaction, complaint or communication. We review and assess each request based on the unique circumstances. Customers can request an additional review if they disagree with the original decision.

Do not answer: If you are not 100% sure of the source of the call, email or text message, hang up the phone, do not click on the link in the email and do not not reply to the SMS.

Don’t trust caller ID or answer phone calls from unknown numbers: If you recognize the caller ID but the call looks suspicious, hang up the phone. Phone numbers can be easily spoofed to appear to be from a legitimate caller.

Do not give out your information: Never provide personally identifiable information unless you are absolutely sure that the person and the reason are legitimate. Remember: Bank of America will never ask you to send us personal information such as an account number, social security number, or tax ID number by text, email, or online.

Research and validate: If the person or organization seems suspicious, make sure the request made is legitimate by calling the organization through an official number on its website or by consulting a trusted family member or friend.

Now there is good news, after Eyewitness News contacted Bank of America, the money was returned to Ball and his accounts were reopened.

“It makes me feel like you’re like angels,” Ball said. “It was a very complicated claim, but after receiving a call from ABC7 they were able to look into it further, and I want to thank Bank of America for acting so quickly.”

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