Venmo Scams: How to Protect Yourself
Table of Contents
- By Emmett
- Jun 17, 2022
With nearly $160 billion in total payment volume for 2020, Venmo is quickly growing into one of the most popular peer-to-peer, or P2P, payment systems on the market. Venmo allows you to conveniently transfer money to friends, businesses, or charity groups, all from their easy-to-use app. With all that money moving around, it's no surprise that a number of scams have popped up around the service. While these Venmo scams can be devastating to your bank account, they are easy to avoid once you know what to look for.
What is a Venmo Scam?
A Venmo scam is any cybercrime associated with the P2P app, usually designed to either take money from your bank account or steal personal information. Because Venmo is directly connected to your bank, scammers can find out all sorts of information, including your:
- Full Legal Name
- Account Balances
- Login Credentials
- Social Security Number
These scams vary in their methods, with some masquerading as legitimate business people, while others use age-old hacking techniques like phishing.
Examples of Venmo Scams
Much like scams with other forms of technology, a Venmo scam can occur almost anywhere. Whether you are using the app from home, paying for goods in a business, or just meeting new friends, Venmo scams have a habit of popping up when you least expect them.
Here are three common Venmo scams to watch out for:
A Venmo scams text can seem like a completely legitimate message, usually appearing like it's coming from an official representative. This “employee” will tell you there has been an issue with your account, and you will be charged a significant fine if you don’t log in immediately. This form of phishing, more commonly known as smishing, steals your login credentials as soon as you enter them. The fake website you are directed to will then ask for more sensitive information like your bank account number and social security number.
What You Can Do to Prevent This: Whether it's phishing or smishing, never click on a link you don’t trust. If you believe there is a real issue with your account, contact a Venmo customer service representative, and don’t provide any personal information until you are 100% certain the person you are speaking to works for Venmo.
Fake Business or Fake-Sale
While Venmo isn’t designed to be used to conduct business, many smaller vendors will accept Venmo payments as a convenient way to receive money for their goods or services. Because these smaller businesses are difficult to verify, it's possible that they don’t intend to deliver a product at all. Conversely, a legitimate seller may send products soon after a payment is received. A scammer can then contact Venmo and request that the payment is reversed, causing the vendor to lose both the money and the product.
What You Can Do to Prevent This: If possible, avoid dealing with vendors that only use Venmo for payment. If you do, try to only use it for businesses that you have seen in person, like small pop-up restaurants or merchant stands. If you are a seller, it's always best to find a payment service designed specifically for businesses. These have invoice systems and other documentation procedures that make scams much harder to perpetrate.
Because all of your Venmo information is on your phone, the only thing between you and an in-person scam is your lock screen. In-person scammers will often pose as someone in need, asking potential victims if they can use their phone to make a quick call or send a text. These scammers can also be someone feigning romantic interest, who will then ask for your phone to enter their phone number. Once your device is in their possession, in-person scammers will open your Venmo app and transfer money into their own accounts. Depending on how long they have the device, scammers can also steal other personal information, allowing them to access other accounts or even steal your identity.
What You Can Do to Prevent This: Under no circumstances should you allow a stranger to handle your smartphone. Your phone has a massive amount of personal data on it, and once unlocked, most programs and accounts can be accessed at the press of a button. If someone needs to make an emergency call, dial the number for them and watch them closely until the call is complete.
How to Report a Venmo Scammer
While getting your money back may be difficult due to Venmo’s lack of payment protection for buyers and sellers, you can report unauthorized transactions to support@Venmo.com. If you believe your personal information was stolen through Venmo, there are a few steps you can take.
- Check all of your bank and credit card statements for unusual activity.
- If you find evidence of a scam, report the activity to the Federal Trade Commission.
- If you believe your identity has been stolen because of a Venmo scam, run an identity threat scan. These can let you know whether your data has been taken by a cybercriminal and what has happened to it.
Venmo Can Make Payments Convenient, But Be Cautious
We all love the ability to transfer money easily to friends and family, but convenience can come at a price. Venmo scams can be incredibly damaging to your bank account and credit, so be on the lookout for scammers while utilizing their service. If you spot a scam early, you can mitigate much of the damage associated with these types of crimes.