I am wanting to purchase an item and the seller only accepts Zelle. If I send a payment and do not get my item, is there a way to get my money back?
The Zelle FAQ article "I’m unsure about using Zelle® to pay someone I don’t know. What should I do?" can be sumarized in three words: "Use something else".
Zelle is a great way to send money to friends, family or others you trust such as your personal trainer, babysitter, or a neighbor. If you don’t know the person, or aren’t sure you will get what you paid for (for example, items bought from an on-line bidding or sales site), we recommend you do not use Zelle for these types of transactions, which are potentially high risk.
Zelle does not offer a protection program for any authorized payments made with Zelle - for example, if you make a purchase using Zelle, but you do not receive the item or the item is not as described or as you expected.
If you get scammed, they won't help you in any way to get a refund. Reclaiming the money would be your own responsibility.
Zelle/Venmo do not protect you in this situation, so you'd likely have to resort to the courts to compel re-payment from the seller. Small-claims court can be fairly reasonable, but is not always an option if the seller is in a different state. Costs can quickly add up to more than it's worth, though if successful you might also recoup legal costs from the seller.
If you don't trust the seller stick with payment methods that offer protection, if they are hesitant due to the extra fees associated with other methods then perhaps you would offer to pay a little extra.
Small claims court. Which will probably cost you more than the cost of the item, and definitely will take long enough for the fraudster to disappear with your money.
You would have no basis to request a reversal of a Zelle transfer, because when you make a Zelle transfer you have to agree to treat the payment as a gift not as a payment for goods. Failure to deliver the goods is not any concern of Zelle or the banks participating in using Zelle for transfers.
"Gifts" as a payment method is typically used in case of dubious transactions. Either the seller tries to avoid paying duties and taxes, or they are trying to avoid providing you with something they are obliged to provide (like mandatory warranty), or perhaps they are selling you an item which cannot be sold legally. That is, assuming that they don't plan to simply disappear as soon as they get your money.
A wise piece of advice would be to stay away.
For online purchases, I find it is best to have more than one guarantee of refund for goods not received. (1) Ebay and Paypal both have separate policies with different deadlines. (2) The bankcard you use can also have a policy for disputing charges for goods not received, but some banks make this too complicated by putting responsibility on the buyer to prove they negotiated with the merchant first and documented the process. (3) Only if packages are actually mailed using insurance, and later lost, the carrier service has another system of claims against insurance, which also involve deadlines and documentation. If someone is a legitimate seller in good faith, they will agree to insurance and other systems that protect the buyer and back the purchase; but if it costs extra for these services, they want the buyer to pay the difference. Thus, you could also offer to pay this seller more to cover added costs for using a different system that allows safer guarantees. Both ebay and paypal add costs and time, so you might have to add a lot more to the payment as "incentive" to make it worth the seller's trouble to use those. (NOTE: If you cannot use this seller, try searching online for the same or similar item elsewhere. )