Venmo, owned by PayPal, is a social payment app used by more than 60 million people. The company started in 2009 as a fast and safe way to send payments to friends without sending bank or credit card information.
The interface of Venmo is similar to a social media platform like Facebook or Instagram—you can add friends, view their transactions on your feed, and like or comment on the transaction. You can also download the app on any smartphone or tablet.
To use Venmo, you simply create an account and link your bank for a quick and easy way to send money to friends. It costs nothing to signup, and there are no fees if you send money directly from your bank account or your Venmo account. You can alternatively link a credit card which incurs a 3% fee whenever you send money. When you receive money, you can instantly send it to your bank account for 1% of the sending fee or have the funds transferred in 1-3 business days for free.
In recent years, Venmo has evolved into a more sophisticated payment system. You can now create a business profile so you can accept money as a business or freelancer. It also expanded to include a Venmo Mastercard Debit Card so you can use your Venmo balance anywhere debit cards are accepted.
Apps and platforms that can send and accept money are often prime targets for scammers. Some of the most popular scams targeting Venmo users include:
This type of scam occurs when someone asks for a small sum of money in exchange for a more significant sum of money. These scammers will contact you either by phone or email. They will lay out a plan about how they, the scammer, will use the funds to help you invest in a business. Or the scammer will say they want to share their wealth but need you to send money to them first to verify your account.
Whatever the scenario, the scammer will convince you that they'll send you back an even more tremendous amount of money once you send them money. However, once you send the scammer money, they never pay you back and often disappear.
If you're selling something and using Venmo to receive money, be careful of different scams where the buyer will try to convince you they paid but didn't. In some cases, the scammer will try to convince you they sent a payment by sending you screenshots of fake Venmo emails verifying they paid.
Another popular scam is when the scammer tells you they've paid, but Venmo won't release the funds until you provide proof the item they've purchased has shipped. Scammers may also use stolen credit cards or debit cards to buy things. Then, when the card owner finds out, the payment is canceled, and Venmo may remove the money from your account.
Venmo allows you to add friends, much like a social media site, to make payments between you and your friends easier. Scammers will sometimes steal profile pictures of someone you know and create a fake Venmo account under your friend's name. The scammer will then try to add you as a friend on Venmo and request money.
In this Venmo scam, the scammer hopes that you send them money thinking it’s your friend.
This phishing scam is common across all kinds of platforms, not just Venmo. A scammer will call, text, or send an email saying they're from Venmo support and they're having a problem with your account. They'll say they can only fix the problem if you provide personal information or use a fake link to login into your account.
When you provide information or login into your account using their link, the scammer uses what you provide to hack your Venmo account and steal from you.
The Venmo email scam looks to trick users into thinking they have a pending payment made by a PayPal user for a large sum of money. The message cites the brand's "Venmo User Protection Policy" and gives instructions on how to get your money.
The scam involves vague directions on sending a next-day delivery package to verify the payment and prevent you from dealing with a fraudulent seller. The goal of the scam is to get you to email the provided fake customer support address to ask for clarification.
Once this is done, the scammers will use manipulation tactics to get you to transfer money into their account(s) so that they don't release your personal information.
If you receive a random payment on Venmo from someone you don't know, it may be a scammer. In this Venmo scam, a stranger will claim to have accidentally sent you money and ask you to send the money back. They may even ask you to send the money to a different account.
The money they've sent is usually from a stolen credit card, and once the bank notices fraud, it can take the money from your account.
Venmo imposters send texts to users with various messages, such as:
Regardless of the message, the goal will be the same—to have you click the link and enter your information.
You want to be safe anytime you're using an app like Venmo that holds personal information such as your bank account or credit card numbers. To reduce your risk of being scammed on Venmo, follow these tips:
Since Venmo is designed to be used between friends and family, it does not offer any protection for buyers or sellers who use the app to complete transactions. While Venmo does offer a Venmo Business account for merchants and freelancers, there are no additional security measures provided through the Venmo Business profile.
To keep yourself safe from fraud, only use Venmo with people you know. If you want to accept payments as a business, it's better to use a platform such as Venmo's parent company PayPal. If you wish to purchase something and someone is insisting on using Venmo, it's likely a scam and may not be worth buying.
Venmo does use bank-level encryption to protect your financial information. This encryption makes it difficult for someone to hack into an account and steal your banking information. However, if you want to add an extra layer of security to your account, you can set up a PIN and two-factor authentication (2FA).
It's also important to note that your account is automatically public when you sign up for Venmo. This means anyone you've added as a friend can see your transaction history on their feed. They won't be able to see the transaction amount, but they'll see who the transaction was with and any notes you may have added about the transaction. A public profile also means any friends of the person you make a transaction with can see you on their feed.
To keep strangers from seeing your profile and transaction history, you can change your profile settings to private or remember to set each transaction to private as you go. When your profile is private, only you and the person involved in the transaction can see anything.
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