Personal Resource Center

Fraud Alert: Zelle Payments

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Scammers can “spoof" bank phone numbers, making it appear the call is legitimately coming from the bank, but instead you'll be calling the thief.

Scam 1: Impersonating a banking team member to access your Zelle funds

When you receive a phone call or text alert from your bank warning of suspicious activity, you may immediately start to fret. This can cause you to let your guard down – especially if the call or texts seems to be coming from a Synovus phone number. Problem is, scammers can "spoof" the number that shows up on your caller ID when they call you, making it appear that the call is legitimately coming from a number you recognize (like your bank's number).

In this scenario, the alert will typically include a request to contact the bank at a specific number. When you call back, the fraudster will ask for your username and tell you they'll send you a passcode via text as they seek to unravel what has supposedly gone wrong. What they'll do next is log into your account with that username, hit the “forgot passcode" function, and the bank will send the passcode to you. When you repeat it to them, they use it to log into your account, quickly change your passcode, and transfer the funds out of your bank account using your Zelle credentials.

How to avoid it: If you receive a call or text message from someone claiming to be from Synovus, especially if you weren't expecting it, immediately call 1-888- SYNOVUS. If the message provides an alternate number, don't call that one — even if your caller ID shows that the call came from Synovus. (Remember, the number could be spoofed by scammers.) If any caller requests banking credentials, you can be sure it's a fraud. Synovus will never contact you and request your username or password, or call you to request any sensitive information. Make sure you are initiating the call with a number you find online, not one that has been sent to you.


Scam 2: Asking for an overpayment as a Zelle refund

In this scam, the fraudster pays you for an item or service — and then sends a check to cover the bill. When the check arrives, it's larger than expected. When you offer them a refund, and they suggest that you send the difference via Zelle and keep the entire amount of the check. But once you send them the overage, you'll discover the check was counterfeit, and you're out the money you sent them on top of whatever payment you were expecting.

How to avoid it: If you're selling something to a stranger, require that they use cash to avoid receiving a counterfeit check. However, if there's a scenario where you do receive a check, never accept overpayment for an item or service, especially if they request a refund via peer-to-peer payment or a gift card (which is also common). To protect yourself, send the check back and request one in the correct amount — or better yet, ask them to send cash instead.


Scam 3: Borrowing your phone and accessing your apps

Someone approaches you in a public place to tell you their device has died and they need to make a call or send a quick text for someone to pick them up. Of course, you agree to help and unlock your phone to allow them to reach out. However, that also gives them access to your Zelle account and other peer-to-peer payment apps, and within moments they can furtively drain your account and send the contents of your bank account to themselves or an accomplice.

How to avoid it: Be wary of strangers, even if you want to be helpful. The wisest choice might be to avoid letting them use your phone. Instead, direct them to a nearby business — or to a police officer or security guard who can help. You might think it's OK to offer to dial the number for them so they're not using your keypad. But even that could be risky if they turn away and pretend to be talking. And always make sure your apps are locked down with the highest security settings. This will also protect you if your phone is lost or stolen.


Been Targeted by a Peer-to-Peer Scam? Here's What to Do

If you think you may have been the target of a P2P scam, don't be embarrassed. Peer-to-peer scams are extremely sophisticated and can happen to even the most savvy digital consumers. Instead, focus on taking action.

  • Immediately change your password and user name on your Zelle and other accounts.
  • Notify your bank and any third-party mobile payment apps immediately as they might be able to reverse the transaction. (But remember: Never use a number that was sent via email or text — even if it appears to be from your bank.) For Synovus accounts, call 1-888-SYNOVUS to report the incident and determine the appropriate steps to secure your account.
  • File a report with Federal Trade Commission1 even if it seems like there's no recourse. The more reports they receive, the greater the possibility they can build a case against the scammers. Finally, remember that peer-to-peer payments are just like cash so it's important only to use this function with people you know and trust, just as these tools were initially intended.

Want to know more? Here's how Synovus protects your safety and security.

Important disclosure information

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

  1. https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/, accessed October 20, 2021. Back