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Fraudsters Cost Her $6,500, And She Had To Hire Computer Expert To Prove It To Bank Of America

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Julie Poncela lost thousands of dollars as a result of fraud, but the bank didn't believe her until she hired a computer expert to prove she was hacked.

"I've been losing hours of sleep," she said.

RELATED: How To Avoid Zelle Scams and Fraud

Poncela didn't go on a shopping spree; someone got into her Bank of America account, and used the electronic payment service Zelle to send money to people she didn't know over the course of a few days; three transactions totaling $6,500.

"These transactions should have been flagged as very unusual," she said.

She figured it out, and told the bank on Oct. 12, then followed up later that month.

"They said the claim had been denied, because it looked like the transactions had happened from one of my usual devices," she said.

Poncela hired a computer repair service, which found a laptop virus "possibly allowing confidential or personal information to be compromised."

She sent the report to Bank of America.

"They're putting it on me to investigate how this may have happened," she said.

Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center, said consumers have rights if there are unauthorized charges on their bank accounts, and the burden of proof should be on the banks. That's not just her opinion, it's federal law under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.

"They can't just throw up their hands and say, 'We're not gonna believe consumers,'" she said. "Because we know criminals are out there."

Bank of America wouldn't go into specifics of the law, but said they complied with the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.

The bank refunded Poncela's money last week, a couple hours after CBS 2 first emailed them. Bank of America said they gave her the money because of the virus report she paid for.

"I will try to be even more careful, but it's their job to keep my money safe," Poncela said.

Poncela reached out to CBS 2 after seeing the Morning Insiders' report on Deborah Steidl, whose bank account was drained through the Zelle app this past summer.

A fraudster got into Steidl's Fifth Third Bank account in June, and transferred out more than $2,500. She argued with the bank for months, filed a police report, and pointed out she doesn't even use Zelle.

"That was my Social Security that check he stole," Steidl said.

Fifth Third refunded her money a few days after CBS 2 contacted the bank.

"With the new payment system, the banks need to adapt, and they need to stay a step ahead of the criminals, and unfortunately, right now, I think they're a step or two behind," Saunders said.

That step could be a costly one.

Zelle recommends users set their security to mult-factor authentication, and sign up to receive alerts from their bank regarding suspicious activity.

For tips on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud, click here.


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