Zelle® is a fast and easy way to send and receive money with people you know and trust, like your babysitter, friends or family. Whether you just enrolled with Zelle® or have been an active user for a while, there are a few tips you should always keep in mind to avoid scams.
Only send money to people you know and trust
Money moves quickly with Zelle®, directly from account to account, typically within minutes, when both users are enrolled. It’s important you know and trust the people you’re sending money to. Why? Because you can’t cancel a payment once it’s been sent if the recipient is already enrolled with Zelle®. If you send money to someone you don’t know for a product or service you might not receive (like paying for something in advance), you may not get your money back. Keep in mind that sending money with Zelle® is similar to handing someone cash.
What is a scam?
A scam is a type of fraud that tricks you into sending money to someone. Unlike situations where someone gains unauthorized access to your account, such as by stealing your login credentials, these payments occur with your approval and go to the recipient you specify.
Please be aware of scams that may specifically target users of Zelle® at CIBC Bank USA and other person-to-person payment services. Scammers know that the payments made through these services happen quickly, so they see the opportunity to make quick money from their victims.
As permitted by law, CIBC Bank USA may not reimburse you for transactions that you authorized. For example, if you log into your account to send a Zelle® payment to someone who turns out to be a scammer, and you authorized that transaction, you will be liable for that transaction to the extent permitted under applicable law.
Scammers convince trusting victims to send them money by telling lies about something the victim wants or a situation the victim hopes to resolve. The scammers’ make-believe stories may sound realistic, but they are lies. Their tactics often involve emotional elements like the ones below to try to get you to take action before you have time to think it through. They’ll often include just enough realistic aspects to make the situation seem believable. For example:
Scammers will say you must pay a fee before they can send your winnings for a lottery or sweepstakes — perhaps for one you didn’t even enter. It’s true that people often enter — and sometimes win — contests, but legitimate ones don’t require a fee to claim a prize.
Friends and relatives might truly find themselves in a financial bind and ask you to give them money. But a scammer may pretend to be someone you know — sometimes saying they’ve been arrested or robbed while traveling and need money immediately for bail, a ransom, or food. They may pressure you to keep the transaction secret and tell you to send the money to a recipient other than the phone number or email address you’d normally use for them.
Scammers might connect with you through online dating sites or social media and pretend to be in a romantic relationship with you, expressing extreme levels of devotion very quickly, and may have excuses as to why they can’t meet in person. At some point, they ask you for money, often urgently, such as when they claim to be hospitalized and need to pay medical bills.
Taxpayers sometimes owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but the IRS doesn’t accept payments via Zelle® — unlike the scammers impersonating the IRS. Scammers claiming to be from the government may say you or a loved one will be arrested, prosecuted, or imprisoned if you don’t send a Zelle® payment. That isn’t how the government works in the US.
Scammers know that if you stopped to think about the situation, you might realize that something didn’t seem right. So they ramp up the urgency to make you think you need to act now, without taking time to consider what’s really going on. This may happen, for instance, in a computer repair scam, where the scammer says your computer is infected and will be unusable unless you send them a payment immediately.
Neither CIBC Bank USA nor Zelle® offers a protection program for authorized payments made with Zelle®. So, if you aren’t sure you will get what you paid for, you should use another payment method with purchase protection, such as a credit card with that protection.
Keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t seem right, including these common red flags:
Requests for payment from someone you just met, have never met in person, or haven’t spoken to in a while
Pressure to send money right away for fear of losing out on a special deal or suffering dire consequences.
Threats that you or a loved one will be subject to arrest, criminal prosecution, or other legal consequences if you don’t send the payment
Instructions to purchase gift cards and provide codes as a form of payment
A call from someone claiming to be from CIBC Bank USA and asking for sensitive information, such as account numbers or login credentials, or asking you to initiate a payment. If in doubt, immediately hang up and contact us directly at 877-448-6500 Opens your phone app..
Unexpected payments received in your account
If you see any payment in your CIBC Bank USA account that you did not expect, including a payment from a sender you do not recognize, contact us immediately at 877-448-6500 Opens your phone app.. Because of the risk of scams involving unexpected payments using Zelle®, please do not send any funds back to the sender unless and until you have communicated with us about the matter and we instruct you to do so. Further, because of scams in which scammers impersonate victims’ financial institutions, it is of utmost importance that you confirm you are in fact communicating with us before taking any such action.
Treat Zelle® like cash
Did your friend change phone numbers recently? It’s easy for people to change their phone number or email address. When in doubt, contact your friend to verify the email or U.S. mobile number they used to enroll with Zelle® before you hit “Send.” Another good check point for ensuring you're paying the right person is to confirm the name that is displayed for enrolled emails and U.S. mobile numbers.
If a person has already enrolled a U.S. mobile number or email address with Zelle®, you can’t cancel the transaction, so it’s important you get it right the first time.