(WSVN) - They sent money through Zelle. Quick and easy, right? But when it went to the wrong person, the problem popped up quickly, and the solution wasn’t easy, which is why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you’re young, you may have never written a check or even had a checkbook.

But Antonio does.

Antonio Abreu: “This was great. I use checks to do all my payments. I never had any problem in my life with checks.”

Times change, of course.

Now, instead of mailing a check that takes days to get cashed, Antonio can use the Zelle app on his phone to get it there in minutes.

Antonio Abreu: “Sometimes I need to send a little money for my son, and I would use Zelle.”

It’s great, until its not.

Antonio Abreu: “She missed one digit in the phone number, and the Zelle sent the money even like that.”

Two transactions, $1,000 each, were sent to the wrong person because of a single incorrect digit.

Antonio Abreu: “Her phone number is -1105, and my friend is -1135.”

Fortunately, the Zelle receipt listed the name of the person at the wrong phone number.

Antonio Abreu: “Marlyn de Armas.”

Antonio called her.

Antonio Abreu: “‘And I appreciate if you can return,’ blah, blah, blah, ‘so no problem. If you want, I can go to your house where you live.’ She says, ‘I live in Hialeah.'”

The next day, Antonio called her again.

Antonio Abreu: “‘You know, I appreciate if you can give me my money back, ma’am.’ She said, ‘If you keep calling one more time, [I’m] going to call the police.”‘

Antonio then called Zelle, who told him to call his bank.

Antonio Abreu: “The bank says there’s nothing they can do because it’s something that relates with Zelle. I went to the police, and they said that [there’s] nothing they could do.”

Two thousand dollars is a lot of money to Antonio, and now it’s gone.

Antonio Abreu: “It makes you feel bad. Makes you feel like you’re powerless.”

Well, if you send money to the wrong number through an app like Zelle, are you out of luck, or is the person who got it committing a crime?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “No, you are not out of luck. If you contact the person who kept the money, and they won’t return it, it’s a crime, and they can go to jail if the police will take up the case, but its not a high-priority crime for the police. However, you can sue the person who has your money, and in a case like this, get three times the amount that you are owed. Of course, with only a cellphone number, it can sometimes be tough to locate that person.”

I contacted the phone number that got the money. The owner, Marlyn de Armas, texted, “The money was taken care of by the bank to return it to the owners.”

When I asked for the proof she sent the money back, she texted, “I am going to ask not to bother me anymore.”

North Miami Beach Police were nice enough to contact de Armas.

An officer wrote De Armas “didn’t want to provide any information” and disconnected the call immediately.

We did a search for a Marlyn de Armas in South Florida. No address turned up.

Antonio Abreu: “So maybe you should change your mind and give us the money back that we really need.”

Antonio needs that $2,000 back, and if he doesn’t get it, he says, that’s life.

Antonio Abreu: “You know, I’m a religious guy, and I hope she enjoys the money, and the bill for herself is going to come one day.”

The bill for herself is going to come due one day. Another reason I love doing Help Me Howard: the people you meet and the way they phrase things.

Now, if this happens to you, file a dispute with your bank. They will try to retrieve the money from the bank of the person you accidentally sent it to. It’s a long shot to get the money back, but Antonio is trying.

A problem withdrawing the joy from your life? Banking on getting some help? Check with us to see if we can deposit a solution with you.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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