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Message from the Director – Protect Yourself from Payment Scams

The primary goal of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) Customer Assistance Group (CAG) is to process and resolve consumer complaints under our jurisdiction. While CAG seeks to resolve complaints in an objective and expeditious manner, not all consumer issues are covered by banking laws or regulations and not all consumers will obtain the resolution they are seeking.

Many consumers use third-party payment apps, like Zelle®, Venmo®, and CashApp®, also called peer-2-peer payment systems (P2P) and mobile wallet applications, like PayPal®, Google Pay® and Apple Pay®, to pay for goods or services and to send money to friends and family. With the rise in the use of digital payments, the number of scams designed to defraud consumers has also increased. Consumers need to know how to identify a potential scam so they can spot fraud before becoming a victim. Here are a few examples of payments scams:

  • A scammer may contact a customer via email or text message asking the customer to confirm a large, fake Zelle® payment. Once the customer responds to the notice, the scammer will make contact by phone pretending to represent the bank and using a fake caller ID (spoofing). The scammer will then walk the customer through instructions on how to reverse the unauthorized payments which instead transfers the money to the scammer.
  • Scammers may contact you impersonating an established individual or company and tell you that they have noticed suspicious activity, such as money being sent from your account to another account. They will ask you to send the money to yourself with Zelle® to reverse the payment.
  • A scammer will use a stolen credit card and connect it to Apple Pay®. The scammer transfers funds to an unsuspecting consumer and then sends a message asking the consumer to return the funds. The consumer may believe it was an honest mistake and sends the money back before the fraudulent transaction is reversed. Once the consumer refunds the money, the scammer enters their own payment information and deletes the stolen card information, so that funds are transferred to the scammer and the consumer has lost their money.
  • A scammer may advertise expensive items or even pets for sale and request a deposit via CashApp® or Google Pay®. The consumer sends the money but never receives the merchandise or the pet and the seller stops responding.
  • An unknown company or person will request remote access to a customer’s phone or computer. They may also ask the customer to download an app to fix an “issue” which would allow them remote access to the phone. This could expose the customer’s account information.
  • Be careful when searching for information on-line. Scammers create legitimate looking websites in an attempt to get someone to click on a link or call the phone number listed on the website. If the customer clicks on the link or calls the number, the scammer will try to obtain the customer’s sign-in details. If the scammer is able to obtain the sign-in details, they can drain the consumer’s bank account without their knowledge.

Here are some things, you as a consumer, can do to avoid payment scams:

  • HANG UP, LOOK UP, AND CALL BACK: If you receive a call from someone warning about fraud, hang up. If you believe the call might be legitimate, look up the number of the organization supposedly calling you, and call them back.
  • VERIFY ENROLLMENT AND CONFIRM ACCOUNTS: Before sending money to yourself at another bank or credit union using P2P, make sure the email address or U.S. mobile number you are using to send the money has been enrolled with P2P at the other financial institution and is linked to your account. Note that your bank will never ask you to use Zelle or another P2P app to send money to yourself.
  • SAFEGUARD AGAINST THIRD PARTIES: Be careful when giving device access to third parties. Additionally, safeguard sensitive information such as login credentials, passwords, PINs, account numbers, and one-time passcodes.
  • DO YOUR RESEARCH: Always do the proper research before making a purchase online and before responding or sending money.

For more information on various scams, the OCC recommends that consumers visit the following websites:

Although some laws and regulations, such as Regulation E, require financial institutions to reimburse you for certain types of erroneous transactions, most P2P payment systems DO NOT offer additional protection programs for payments that you send. Therefore, it is suggested that you only use these types of applications to pay individuals and entities you KNOW and TRUST.

January 2023