Roanoke man working to recover misdirected Zelle payment

Jim Quinn says $300 meant for son went to wrong phone number, bank account

ROANOKE, Va. – More people are using mobile apps and online websites to send money to family and friends, but one Roanoke man learned some of those peer-to-peer payment systems don't have the consumer protections he thought they did.

"With one click, I sent that money and it was gone," said Jim Quinn, of the $300 he sent to his son who lives in Florida using Zelle. "I said that's the easy way to do it. He lives out of state."

Zelle is one of a growing number of peer-to-peer payment systems, like Venmo or Cash App. Zelle allows users to send money directly between almost any United States bank within minutes, using a mobile number or email address.

More than 100 banks across the country are a part of the Zelle network, including BB&T, Wells Fargo, SunTrust, and USAA. Some banks have it integrated into their mobile banking app.

Quinn banks with BB&T and thought if there were any problems, he would be OK.

When his son never acknowledged receipt of the money weeks after he sent it, Quinn said he asked his son about the transaction. He said his son answered that he never received the money.

Quinn said he's spent more than a month trying to find out what happened and recover the money.

"I even went into BB&T in person to speak with the branch manager," Quinn said. "I called Congressman Goodlatte's office. I filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

Quinn said the money somehow ended up getting sent to a stranger's phone number and was deposited into the wrong bank account.

"It says it went to my son, and right under that it has the number it went to, and it's not his number, and I don't know where the number came from," Quinn said.

Quinn quickly learned banks will refund fraudulent or unauthorized Zelle transactions, but beyond that, customers have limited protections.

"They called me up several days later and said that they had reached out to that person who accepted the money and could not get it back," Quinn said. "I could not believe that a system that is available through the larger banks and owned by the larger banks would allow that to happen." 

Julie Wheeler, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Western Virginia, said it's important to treat any peer-to-peer transaction like cash and verify any contact information.

"You want to make sure that information is up-to-date and accurate, and if you're sending money, that the person knows that you're sending it," Wheeler said.

10 News reached out to BB&T and a spokesperson said they are investigating how Quinn's money went to the wrong number and person.

BB&T also shared this information about Zelle transactions:

• Consumers can cancel payments if they are pending, but most will be delivered instantly. Consumers can request that their bank assist in getting monies returned, if in error, but these payments are irrevocable, and cannot simply be reversed by the bank. Both parties must agree to reverse payments made in error. 

• When using Zelle, clients need to be sure to have the correct contact information- and treat Zelle the same as sending cash, and senders should know their recipients.

• At BB&T, clients are protected and reimbursed for any unauthorized transactions. When a client enrolls for Zelle with BB&T, and with each subsequent Zelle transaction, they receive notification to their email account on record, and a BB&T Online Banking Secure Message.

• We also provide a number of ways that clients can learn more about what we do to protect them and measures they can take to protect themselves at BB&T Privacy and Security Central. 

• In addition, we regularly review our marketing and communications materials to reflect client feedback and make certain they are easy to understand. And we are always looking at ways to enhance protections to further reduce misdirected payments.

• If your contact already uses Zelle, they'll receive their payment within minutes. If not, they'll receive a notification with instructions on how to enroll.

Quinn said even if he doesn't get his money back, he doesn't want this to happen to anyone else.

"A system that will allow you to send money without checks and balances that the person that it's intended for isn't the person that got it, there's something clearly wrong with that," Quinn said.

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