81-year-old loses thousands in credit union scam using payment app

Constance Jackson says it all started with an unsolicited phone call.

"It came up on my phone as Michigan First Credit Union," the 81-year-old said.

A man claiming to be from her credit union said someone tried, unsuccessfully, to use her account in Texas, and that they would lock the account for 24 hours.  

The next day: "I called the credit union to see how to get my account unlocked, they said they had never called me," Jackson said. "And they said that the money was gone. They told me that I had been scammed."

The con stole $4,000 from the grandmother, widow, and retired school administrator from her account via Zelle app in one day.

Jackson thought the credit union would make her whole. She waited a few weeks and then called it again.

"They told me I had to recoup my money through Zelle, and they had tried to get the money from Zelle, and they could only recoup $35 of the $4,000 that was taken," she said.

Michigan First Credit Union is investigating what happened.

Zelle is a digital payment service often used by banks that transfers money from one account to another.

A spokesperson says they’re not on the hook for the money lost, the credit union is.

Complaints against mobile payment apps, including Zelle, have skyrocketed this year as more consumers fall prey to scams.

"We’ve all been involved in countless data breaches. you hear about them on the news all the time," said David Derigiotis.

Derigiotis, a cybersecurity expert, says some of our personal information ends up on the dark web-scammers sometimes use it to contact us and try to convince us to give up more sensitive information like login IDs, passwords or security codes.

"Don’t ever give out information if you’re contacted directly," Derigiotis said. "I don’t care if they’re telling you they are from the bank. Always hang up and contact them directly."

And that’s not all

"Set up a two-factor authentication with any of your online accounts especially your banking," he added. "I think some of the things with regards to financial institutions, set up a notice and alert online. Have them flag (the transaction), send you a text, send you an email, anytime there’s a certain amount of money being transferred or accessed over any dollar amount."

The consumer protection agency Early Warning Services released a statement through a spokesperson regarding the Zelle app.

"Zelle does not hold or handle any funds therefore it is the Financial Institution’s decision on the resolution of the consumer's matter. Media and customer inquiries for consumers using Zelle in the financial institutions' apps should be sent to those companies."

A statement was released by Michigan First Credit Union President and CEO Michael Poulos.

"Michigan First Credit Union has been dedicated to providing exceptional service and ensuring the financial security of our members for 95 years. We work diligently to educate our members about fraud schemes and how to protect themselves. In addition to education, we have extensive security measures in place to prevent members from falling victim to fraud attempts.

"We are deeply saddened when any individual experiences financial loss as a result of fraud, and do our very best to help our members avoid these types of situations. The guidance and security measures we provide only go so far; it is ultimately the responsibility of each member to follow through on these efforts to keep their money safe. It is important to never share any personal information, including login IDs, passwords or security codes, with anyone.

"Financial institutions will never ask their members or customers for this information."