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Fake renter, landlord scams now taking advantage of Zelle quick-pay app to receive money from victims

IRVINE, Calif. (KGO) — Esther Jung 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,” Jung said.

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

“I started looking on Craigslist,” Hunt told 7 On Your Side, “and I found a listing for what they called a basement unit.”

Both Jung and Hunt got taken in and taken advantage of. Jung’s fake renter even built a relationship.

VIDEO: Zelle criticized as ‘fraud flourishes’; US senators pen letter demanding answers

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

The “renter” sent Jung a check, then shortly thereafter asked for the money back. Jung 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 Hunt 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

And that’s when the fake landlord just disappeared.

“I’ve heard so many bad stories about people being scammed,” Hunt told 7 On Your Side, “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 Jung’s bank didn’t either.

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

7 On Your Side is reaching out to both banks and will have an update if they come through with refunds, but as our Michael Finney says, we are not holding our breath. Refunds have been scattered at best.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
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