Fake renter scams now taking advantage of Zelle to receive money from victims

ByMichael Finney KGO logo
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

IRVINE, Calif. -- A California woman was trying to sublet her UC Irvine-adjacent apartment when she heard from a potential renter.

"She sent me her ID which established some form of credibility," she said.

Bakersfield's Ralph Hunt was trying to rent an apartment in Utah.

"I started looking on Craigslist," Hunt told our sister station in San Francisco, KGO-TV, "and I found a listing for what they called a basement unit."

Both the California woman and Hunt got taken in and taken advantage of. The woman's fake renter even built a relationship.

VIDEO: Chase customer loses total of $7,000 in Zelle scam: Here's what you need to know

"She told me about herself. She asked me to tell her about myself," she said. "She seemed more interested in looking at the apartment."

The "renter" sent her a check, then shortly thereafter asked for the money back. she checked and it appeared to have cleared the bank.

"So I gave her, her money back and it turned out the check was a fraud," she says. "In total, I lost $2,905 which is a lot for a college student."

The conman setting up the California woman sent all kinds of paperwork: applications, leases -- it looked so legit.

"Yeah in total I paid $1,100," says Hunt.

VIDEO: Got scammed? You can no longer deduct it on your taxes

As tax season ramps up, many taxpayers are finding out some losses they suffered last year due to being scammed are no longer tax deductible.

And that's when the fake landlord just disappeared.

"I've heard so many bad stories about people being scammed," Hunt said, "but I figured with Zelle being offered by my bank... the FDIC insurance would cover anything wrong."

But his bank did not return his money and the California woman's bank didn't either.

Both Hunt and the woman want you to know, once you send money with Zelle, it is very tough to get it back.

KGO-TV is reaching out to both banks and will have an update if they come through with refunds, but as reporter Michael Finney says refunds have been scattered at best.