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Hackers Stole $2,000 From Woman's Account, But Bank Wouldn't Give Her Refund Until CBS 2 Got Involved

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Kendall County woman says someone hacked into her bank account and used the Zelle payment app to steal $2,000. Then her bank told her there's nothing they can do, and she can't even get ahold of Zelle.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas discovered the fraudsters used an email registered to a Big Ten university.

Alison Senft has a mess on her hands.

"I'm always one that cleans obsessively when I'm stressed out," she said.

That stress started in late November, when she discovered someone had used the payment app Zelle to transfer $2,000 out of her Fifth Third Bank account just in time for the holidays.

"If I could find this person, I would show them my children, and say 'This is who you're stealing from. This is who you are taking money from,'" she said.

She filed a fraud claim, but Fifth Third Bank said the transaction appears valid and they won't refund her, even though the recipients had a phone number with a California area code.

"Don't know anybody there," Senft said. "I have called Zelle, I don't know, probably 20 times; but I cannot get in contact with a person. But Fifth Third just keeps telling me, 'contact Zelle.'"

She did get a response when she sent a Facebook message to Zelle, from someone saying they'd look into it.

But then when she tried to follow up, she suddenly couldn't message them, and she's somehow blocked from commenting on their posts.

"I was so frustrated. Please just, like, let me talk to you, tell this story, and give me some sort of answer," Senft said.

The Morning Insiders have uncovered story after story of people struggling to get the bank to credit them after scammers used Zelle to transfer money out of their accounts.

One Bank of America customer hired a computer expert to prove it was a hacker who sent the money.

But federal law says when it comes to fraud, the burden of proof should be on the banks.

"I feel like I've probably done more investigating than their investigators have done," Senft said.

One of the two transfers from Senft's account was linked to an email address. Indiana University confirmed it's registered to a student, but it's not clear whether that student committed fraud or if their email was somehow hacked.

There are no Hoosiers in Senft's family.

"Oh my gosh, I thought my bank was gonna protect me. Like, that's what I thought your bank does," Senft said.

To make matters messier, she got a notification from Fifth Third that someone had changed her phone number on file. That still was not enough to convince the bank it wasn't her.

A day after CBS 2 got involved, Fifth Third Bank rushed their investigation and determined Senft's case was indeed fraud, and agreed to refund her $2,000. The bank also advised her to change her passwords and security questions, and to have her computer checked as something in their investigation makes them believe something is suspicious.

"We can't thank you enough. There is NO way that these tools would have made this right without your help and work. We're so grateful," Senft told CBS 2 after learning of the refund.

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