Venmo is one of the most popular mobile payment services out there, with over 50 million users in the US. It makes splitting bills, rent, and checks easier. Plus, it’s considerably faster than traditional wire transfers.
But as with everything involving money, scammers are never too far away.
So, here are the 4 most common Venmo scams you need to look out for.
The Venmo texting scam
This involves a trick known as smishing, aka phishing over SMS.
Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails and pretending to represent a reputable company to entice you to reveal personal information, passwords, company data, credit card numbers, or other valuable details.
Scammers posing as Venmo send text messages to users saying their accounts are about to be charged, but they must log in if they want to revert it.
This type of message feels urgent, so many people take the bait. They click the link and log in to keep their money. But, as you’ve probably guessed, the link is just a front, and scammers use it to siphon your private information. Once they have your credentials, they use them to get your funds.
Umm. Has anyone gotten one of these? Seems fishy to me. pic.twitter.com/13T0NJpWEs— Jenn McKay (@jennmckay007) April 8, 2021
Double-checking is crucial. Don’t click the link if:
- The domain seems suspicious.
- It’s shortened, and you can’t see where it leads.
- The URL has any typos.
- You received it via unsolicited DMs, emails, or random texts.
If you fear there’s been an unauthorized charge to your Venmo account, only use the official app or website to make sure everything’s OK.
The fake sale scam
Venmo wasn’t made with businesses in mind. The app caters explicitly to personal use and transactions between friends or acquaintances.
However, since it’s so easy to use, people also rely on it to shop. But buying and selling online with Venmo mainly relies on an honor system. You need to trust that the person you’re doing business with will really send you the goods you’re promised because there is no way you can reverse the charges.
Except for commercial transactions expressly authorized by Venmo, for example, transactions with authorized merchants or business profiles, or purchases made using your Venmo Mastercard®, personal accounts may not be used to conduct business, commercial or merchant transactions with other personal accounts, which includes paying or accepting payment from other personal accounts held by users you do not personally know for goods or services (for example, concert tickets, electronic equipment, sneakers, a watch, or other merchandise).
Since Venmo does not have a chargeback system, it’s easy for scammers to pretend to sell goods or services. I reality, they have nothing to ship. As soon as they have your money, they’re really gone since Venmo has no buyer protection policies in place.
If you are a seller, you’re taking a significant risk by accepting Venmo payments. Remember, Venmo says you shouldn’t use the app for informal sales, like Craigslist or Facebook market.
The company can reverse Venmo payments you receive after they hit your account. Basically, after you get the funds, it looks as if the transaction is complete. The money appears in your Venmo account instantly, and you might even be able to use them.
So, what’s the problem?
Well, the person who paid you can file a claim with Venmo or even use a stolen credit card number to fund the payment. Eventually, the card’s legitimate owner might complain, and the payment will be canceled. And you will be left with no money, even if you already shipped the product you wanted to sell.
The money transfer
The Better Business Bureau began warning consumers about this money transfer scam more than a year ago. The money transfer scam can target any digital wallet, like Venmo, PayPal, Cash App, Apple Pay, and many others.
In this multi-step scam, evildoers connect stolen credit cards to Venmo and use them to transfer money to random people “by accident”. Then, they ask for the money back. They pray on your good intentions of being a lawful citizen and returning the money.
But before you start the transfer, they replace the stolen card details with their own. This way, the money you send reaches them.
In the meantime, the person whose credit card details were stolen will have contacted their bank. They will reverse the charges and block their credit card.
But the funds have to come from somewhere. Yes, you’ve guessed it. They’ll be pulled out of your account.
Since Venmo can’t reverse the charges, as the original credit card is now blocked, you have no real option of getting your money back.
Keep in mind that credit cards usually cover fraud costs, but many digital wallet vendors do not.
The in-person scam
Most Venmo scams occur online, but this one’s from the con artists who don’t mind hitting the streets.
In-person scams are far older than any digital scams, but it seems they just don’t die. Here’s how it goes.
Scammers approach people in public places that aren’t necessarily crowded. They spin a story about how they are in a pickle and ask you to lend them your phone to make a quick call. They can do so by just claiming that their phone just died or they forgot it at home.
After you agree, scammers pretend to make a call to someone’s who’s not picking up. Then, they suggest sending a text instead. But they’re not texting. They’re just making a quick Venmo transfer from your account.
After getting your phone back, you might go about your day and not double-check your apps. So, you’ll most likely not even be aware for some time that you were scammed.
What to do if you have been scammed
You can never be too careful when it comes to money.
Since most scammers rely on social engineering, manipulation, or deceitful tricks, it’s sometimes tough to tell you’re dealing with someone who wants to steal from you.
If you got scammed, here’s what you need to do.
- Report any phishing scams or Venmo employee impersonations to email@example.com.
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve suspect unauthorized access to your Venmo account or if you are locked out of your account.
- Contact your bank to reverse the charges if your Venmo account is linked with your credit card.
- Contact your local authorities and let them know you were scammed.
All in all, be mindful of the people you send money to and be cautious when selling and buying things online.
However, you should also know that Venmo isn’t exactly the pinnacle of online security.
TIL Venmo defaults to public!— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) April 9, 2021
Lucky I use crypto for all my crimes pic.twitter.com/KjxLY9pNAN
As with any online wallet, you need to take some extra steps to protect your account. For starters, choose a strong and complex password and activate two-factor authentication (2FA). You can also consider upping your security with a VPN.
A VPN stands for virtual private network, and it’s an easy-to-use software that can hide your IP address, encrypt your connection, and protect your digital identity. No one can track your online activity, and your accounts are protected from prying eyes.
How do you keep an eye out for scammers? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time, stay safe and secure!