I sent $2,000 to the wrong person on Zelle. Can I get my money back? 

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By Christopher Elliott

Ayotunde Fatusin just lost $2,000 after he accidentally transferred it to the wrong person through Zelle. Bank of America won’t reverse the transaction. But should it?

Question

I accidentally sent a $2,000 Zelle payment to the wrong phone number through Bank of America, and it went to a random person instead of the person I intended for it to go to. 

I was able to get the phone number and name of the random person, so I know where it went. So I reached out to them and they didn’t reply. I contacted Bank of America and after a 45-day investigation, they told me they were not able to do anything about it. 

I am frustrated and don’t know what to do at this point because that’s a lot of money for me to send and lose like that. Can you help me get my $2,000 back? — Ayotunde Fatusin, Riverside, Calif.

Answer

Bank of America should have promptly reversed the transaction. 

Regulation E, authorized under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), protects consumers like you when they transfer funds electronically. It allows you to dispute an ATM withdrawal, debit card purchase or electronic funds transfer. 

The rule specifically protects you from an incorrect electronic fund transfer to or from your account. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Regulation E applies to transfers made through Zelle. And lately, banks have been reversing erroneous transactions under pressure from the CFPB. I have more information on erroneous Zelle transfers in this free guide on this site.

So why didn’t Bank of America reverse your transaction after its “investigation”? That’s a great question. It looks like your case dispute was handled in a highly automated way, and I wonder if any human actually had a chance to review your complaint. Banks have been reversing erroneous transactions on a case-by-case basis, but it appears these cases must first be seen by a person. (Related: These Bank of America fees drained my kids’ savings account.)

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There’s also the timing of your case. It appears that you had the problem at about the same time banks started to reverse the transactions, so your case may have just fallen between the cracks.

I publish executive contacts for both Bank of America and Zelle on this site. You could have appealed to one of them and possibly got the charges reversed. But even with my involvement, this case was far from easy.

How to avoid sending money to the wrong person through Zelle

Before I get to the resolution of your case, let me share a few ways to avoid this problem. (Related: Sent money to the wrong person through Zelle? Here’s how to get it back.)

Double-check the number. Then check again.

You’ll want to check, double-check and triple-check the phone number when you send something through Zelle. Transactions are very difficult — and often impossible — to reverse.

Do the $1 test

If you’re unsure of the number or are extra paranoid, try sending a test transfer for $1 to see if it gets through. Then, call the intended recipient and make sure they received it. (If they didn’t, you just lost $1 instead of $2,000).

Remember, you can cancel your Zelle payment

If the person on the other end doesn’t claim the money, you can cancel the payment through your bank. Follow the directions on your app to process a cancellation. (Related: Chase said her identity had been stolen, but it was a Zelle callback scam.)

A slow resolution to this Zelle case

You reached out to my advocacy team for assistance. I contacted Bank of America on your behalf. The bank contacted you and asked you to fill out some forms, but then went quiet. A few weeks later, I asked about your case again. And this time, it decided to act. I received an update from you shortly after that.

“Just wanted to update you that I received my money back!” you wrote. “I really appreciate your help throughout this entire process because you definitely made this journey a lot easier.”

I’m happy to help. But this was a journey no one should have to take.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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