HOUSTON - More people continue to lose money to scammers asking them to send it through payment apps such as Zelle and Cash App, and they can't get that money back, but consumer advocates say there may be a way to get it reimbursed.
Kristine Rathburn thought she was sending money to a soldier overseas, but Social Catfish, a company dedicated to preventing online scams through reverse search technology, helped her discover it was a scammer in Nigeria.
"He kept asking me for money for his son. I would send a little bit here and there," said Rathburn. She says those payments added up to almost $2,000.
Thousands and thousands of people have lost big money to scammers. They are asked to send payments through apps like Zelle, Cash App, Paypal, and Venmo. Like Rathburn, many victims say they can't get their money back through the app or bank.
"I wish they could do more, but you can’t get your money back once you send it," said Rathburn.
But consumer advocate Christopher Elliott of Elliott Advocacy points out that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says banks should reimburse victims through a regulation governing electronic fund transfers.
"The law is called Regulation E, and it says if you made a mistake and sent someone money, the bank has to go to bat for you the same way it does for a credit card dispute," said Elliot.
However, cybersecurity expert Alex Hamerstone with TrustedSec explains many banks say Regulation E doesn't apply to scams.
"If someone gets into your account, they get your password, get into your account and take your money, that's considered fraud. Scams though, if you press that button to send money," explained Hamerstone, "you have very limited recourse."
Senator Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers just blasted bank CEOs last week for not refunding scammed customers and are asking the CFPB to fill the regulatory gap.
In the meantime, Hamerstone suggests that you don't send money to someone contacting you over text, phone call, or email for any reason. "When they’re putting pressure on you and creating that sense of urgency, it’s going to be a scam," he said.
Rathburn also warns, "Just don’t send money to people you’ve never met before."
Some payment apps and banks may reimburse fraudulent payments on a case-by-case basis.
Zelle: Contact customer support at 1-844-428-8542 or use their online contact form.
Cash App: You can chat with them through their app. Go to your profile and select Support. You can also go to cash.app/help or call 1-800-969-1940.
Venmo: Venmo also has a chat feature on the app. Open your profile and choose Get Help. You can also email Venmo through a contact form or call 1-855-812-4430.
PayPal: You can file a complaint through PayPal’s Resolution Center or call 1-888-221-1161.