Cashless P2P transaction apps are great and have made our lives easier, but as is the case with any new technology, scam artists are quick to find ways to take advantage of them. Unlike other low-level financial crimes, where your account is fraudulent, Zelle and other payment apps rely on you to send funds to them. It is difficult to prove their wrongdoing when you are the one who made the decision to pay them. Zelle explains the difference between fraud and scam on their site, as well as explaining why your consent to the transaction limits their ability to reverse it. Your first and strongest line of defense is you.

If you hone your critical thinking skills and keep an eye out for red flags, you can almost always avoid losing money to a social engineer.

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Baseball commentators can get caught in the Zelle scam.

Think like a rational person.

It's not a good idea to call them Zelle scam artists since the action usually takes place on another app. Zelle is just the wallet draining end of a scam. The scam artist can never succeed if you never open your Zelle app. It's a good rule to avoid responding to emails and text messages. If you get a random message from an unknown source, raise your guard. If they ask you to send money over Zelle or just click on a link, it doesn't matter. This out-of-the-blue request should cause alarm bells to ring.

fake ad for a puppy for sale

Cute dog, but can you trust it??? (No.) Credit: Mashable

The Zelle strategy is a scam.

Zelle scam artists lie to get their money. They pull levers based on fear, compassion, and excitement. There are a few examples from each category to look out for.

  • If you don't pay within a few minutes, the utility company will shut off the service. The utility company won't do this.

  • A person claims to be from your bank and tells you that there's a problem. When a customer's account has been compromised, banks will never ask you to give up passwords or send money over a third party app. If you would like to confirm everything is ok, you can log into your account or call the bank.

  • Someone pretending to be a friend or family member in a financial bind calls a new number because their old phone was lost. It is great to be able to help out a loved one in a difficult situation. Is your friend or family member capable of doing this? If you are feeling generous, first try contacting the person on their normal number or via social media and asking them to confirm their identity before you send them money.

  • A scam artist claims to be selling puppies and only accepts payment via P2P app. The offers seem too good to be true because they are. Logic can sometimes get in the way of people finding the perfect dog. Stock photos are used in the ads because the dog you are trying to buy doesn't exist.

    screenshot of zelle

    Credit: Screenshot: Zelle

You have to use Zelle.

It is possible to send funds to a stranger via a payment app even if you are not a scam artist. Double check to make sure you have the right number, email, or person. It is wise to send a $1 test to the account. Wherever possible, you may want to sign up for multi-factor verification.