Woman talking(l+r), Hand holding phone with zelle app(c)

Diego Thomazini/Shutterstock https://www.tiktok.com/@bri.nyc/video/7370063153880894766?_r=1&_t=8mW5iHTw13D (Licensed)

‘I called my bank and apparently there’s not much that they can do’: Woman scammed out of $2,000 on Zelle by teens who said they were fundraising for basketball uniforms

‘I’m shocked. … These boys were so seemingly sweet and innocent and really charming.’

 

Tangie Mitchell

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The latest New York City scam has dropped, and it’s in the form of innocent-looking youngsters claiming they need money for their basketball team uniforms. At least, that is the warning issued in a new TikTok by real estate agent and former Miss New York USA Briana Siaca.

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In a video with over 831,000 views, Siaca, who won the Miss New York title in 2021 and goes by @bri.nyc on TikTok, breaks down how a couple of teens allegedly used Zelle to scam her out of $2,000 and warns New Yorkers to be on the lookout.

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“If you live in New York City or know of anyone who lives here, be careful,” Siaca begins. She says that just the day before, she was sitting in Madison Square Park listening to a podcast when she was approached by two boys who told her they were fundraising for their South Bronx basketball team.

“They couldn’t afford their uniforms … they were giving me the whole spiel,” Siaca says.

Siaca says she agreed to give the boys some money after hearing their story. With no cash on her, she says she asked if they took Venmo or Zelle, to which the boys reportedly replied that they preferred Zelle.

“I opened my Zelle, and I said, ‘What’s your account?’ and he goes, ‘Oh no, don’t worry, ma’am. I’ll put it in for you, no problem,’” Siaca continues.

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Siaca says she gave her phone to one of the boys while the other continued to talk to her about their team, how well they’ve been playing, and how much her donation would be helping them. However, she says she suddenly noticed something strange about the interaction.

Things took a turn

“I realized that the young boy with my phone was taking a long time, so I kind of grabbed it from him. And he’s like, ‘Thank you, ma’am, appreciate you,’ and they ran off,” Siaca says. 

But the damage was already done. “I looked at my Zelle account, and they sent themselves $2,000,” she says. 

Siaca says she jumped into action, immediately calling her bank, but she was not met with much help. “Apparently, there’s not much that they can do, but they’re still trying to work it out,” she says.

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Siaca says she also went to the police. “The NYPD was beyond helpful,” she adds. “They did everything they possibly could. I went to the precinct, and I worked with the detectives.”

There, she reportedly learned that what she had experienced was part of a much larger issue. “These kids have been scamming people all around the city, New York City parks, Barclays Center. They are out and about scamming people, sending Venmo and Zelles to themselves,” she says.

A day after the purported interaction, Siaca describes her immense shock at the whole encounter. “I’m shocked. It feels kind of like a scary dream,” she says. “These boys were so seemingly sweet and innocent and really charming. I thought it was really brave that they were going around raising money for their team.”

As the video ends, she sends one final warning to viewers: “Just be super careful out there.”

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@bri.nyc #madisonsquarepark #nycscam #nycscammer #nypd #basketballteamscam #nycrobbery ♬ original sound – Bri Siaca

In the comments section, viewers both appreciated Siaca’s vulnerability and desire to spread awareness about the scam and scolded what they saw as her naiveté for getting scammed in the first place.

“Thank you for sharing because honestly I would have done the same as you!!” one viewer gratefully expressed.

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“NEVER give anyone your phone. Hello?” another viewer chided.

“You seem very compassionate and this was unfortunate. Not your fault. Continue to look fabulous and lesson learned,” a third viewer encouraged. 

“You must not be from New York,” another viewer wrote, to which Siaca replied with a video explaining that she was from Brentwood, Long Island, and had lived in New York City for 12 years. 

“Guys, you can be from New York and still get scammed. … I’m sorry I fell for the oldest trick in the book. It was new to me,” she says in the response video.

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Siaca isn’t the only victim

While the unique scam might have been new to Siaca, the New York Police Department has warned the public of mobile app scams run by teenagers in the city before. New York City news outlet PIX11 reported on the rising trend in December 2023 when the NYPD shared surveillance video of a group of teens plotting their next move near Bryant Park in Midtown in Manhattan. 

“It’s under the guise of a basketball team. We did our research, there is no team,” Sgt. Matt Doherty of the NYPD told PIX11. “They are asking for a donation for new jerseys, a trip fundraiser — whatever it may be,” he said.

Similar to Siaca’s experience, the NYPD says teens approach unsuspecting victims in parks, tell them they are raising money for their basketball team, take the victim’s phone to put in the team’s Zelle information, and transfer thousands of dollars from the victim’s account to their own. 

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PIX 11 reported on Thursday that four teenage suspects attempted the same scam in Central Park on Tuesday, but the woman snatched her phone back before the teens could transfer money out of her account. 

Other viewers of Siaca’s video offered advice on how they keep their money transfer apps secure from scammers by employing an extra level of security: Face ID. 

“You can turn on Face ID to approve any transactions on these apps. I’ve had it on since I heard another story like this a year ago,” came one such viewer’s advice.

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Did she ever get her money back?

As of this writing, Siaca’s only update on whether or not her money has been returned is a TikTok of her walking down the city streets in sunglasses, a song playing in the background with the lyrics, “I want my money back.” The video’s caption reads, “Update.”  

The Daily Dot has reached out to Siaca, the New York Police Department, and Zelle via email for more information.

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