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Greenacres small business owner warns others after falling for Zelle scheme

Acelise Alexis loses $40,000 to hackers posing as Chase Bank
Posted at 5:03 PM, Dec 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-12 20:47:08-05

GREENACRES, Fla. — The owner of a medical and psychiatric services clinic called Contact 5 after losing $40,000 when her Zelle account was hacked by someone claiming to be with Chase Bank.

"It was on a Wednesday. I receive a text message that appeared to be from Chase because it had all the Chase messages in it, asking me if I was trying to make a transaction – $60,000 to someone, I believe, in Ohio," Acelise Alexis, owner of KA Comprehensive Medical and Psychiatric Services, told Contact 5.

Worried someone had stolen her information, Alexis said she trusted the person on the other line.

"They had access to multiple of my Zelle recipients. I don't know where they (got) them," Alexis said. "They tried to get in touch with my sister. They sent a code to her cellphone and said that I needed to read it to them. So I called my sister … I gave the the code to them, thinking it was Chase, and I guess it was a code to validate that I'm doing a transaction with my sister."

Acelise Alexis, lost $40,000 in Zelle scam
Acelise Alexis, owner of KA Comprehensive Medical and Psychiatric Services in Greenacres, says she lost $40,000 in a Zelle scam.

With that code, Alexis said they were able to hack her account and steal $40,000 while pretending to be Chase Bank the entire time.

Alexis told Contact 5 this is a big loss for her small business.

"We planned to give that money back, because the loan was about $100,000 when we first opened. We didn't have the money," Alexis said.

These days, apps like Zelle, Venmo and the Cash App are common for quick transactions, and financial advisors warn that using them can often make it really tempting for someone to steal a person's financial information if you're not careful who you trust.

MORE: IRS reminds business owners about Zelle tax change

"The main way that they've done it is there's a high trust factor," Carl Gould, owner of 7 Stage Advisors, said.

Gould told Contact 5 the key is to be skeptical when receiving a call or an email from anyone wanting personal or banking information.

"If anyone ever calls you, say, 'Oh, may I have your name please and what is your identification number? And if we lose contact, who do I call? What's the number for me to call back? Who's your direct supervisor?'" Gould said. "If they're a legitimate organization, they'll give you all that information."

Jessica Bruno holds iPhone with Zelle on it
WPTV Contact 5 consumer investigative reporter Jessica Bruno holds an iPhone displaying the page to download the Zelle app.

The other option is to just hang up and call your bank directly and ask if this was a legitimate call or email, which is what Alexis said she'll be doing next time.

"Hang up right away," Alexis said. "Don't give any information. Don't talk to them. Call the bank, whatever is the number behind your card. Call it and find out if they're trying to call you and, you know, make sure that it's not what happened to me."

Alexis told Contact 5 she is now working with her attorneys to try to get her money back.

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