Third-Party Payment Apps


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If you check your email account regularly, you've likely already come across the bizarre emails from "distant relatives" promising you a cut of their fortune, or the random "Nigerian prince" that claims you've won millions of dollars for absolutely no good reason. You know the ones I'm talking about. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a whopping 2.8 million people reported being scammed in 2021, amounting to a staggering $5.8 billion loss. That's a 70% increase from the previous year. And still, scammers are always trying to come up with new ways — like this ATM scam in New York City — to fleece us of our hard-earned cash. 

Now, a growing number of people have reported being scammed on Venmo or Cash App — two well-known financial apps that make sending and receiving money as easy as a tap on the screen. If you've fallen victim to one of these scams, we've delved into the ins and outs of how to go about reclaiming your money, as well as unmasking the most common strategies that scammers are using nowadays so you can identify them in advance. 

@lizgervais Venmo tip to know!!!!! (Also, if you get a random request from a friend… check with them before hitting pay!) #scammeralert #venmo #scammed #techtoktips ♬ original sound - Liz Gervais

Are Venmo and Cash App Safe To Use?

First, let's start by exploring how Venmo and Cash App work and whether or not they are safe to use. 

Generally speaking, Venmo and Cash App are safe to use. Both apps have robust security measures such as data encryption to protect your personal and financial information from unauthorized access. These services also offer security features such as PIN codes and biometric logins (like Touch ID or Face ID) to provide an additional layer of security to your account. In addition, they are backed by well-established financial institutions (Venmo was acquired by PayPal in 2013, and Cash App is a product of Square), which means they have significant resources at their disposal to prevent and address security breaches.

That being said, the level of safety will also depend on how you use these services. Both Venmo and Cash App were designed for transactions between friends and people who trust each other — not for business transactions with strangers. Therefore, if you send money to an unknown person or fall for a scam, there's a high chance you won't be able to get your money back. 

Also, it's important to be aware that data breaches can still occur despite the services' security measures. To enhance your safety, it's advised to use all available security settings, such as setting up two-factor authentication, making your profile private, and double checking who you're sending money to.

Common Venmo and Cash App Scams

Remember, both Venmo and Cash App were designed to facilitate transactions between friends and trusted contacts, so you should be extra cautious when dealing with unknown parties. Always confirm payments and be wary of requests that seem suspicious, or too good to be true. These are some of the most common Venmo and Cash App scams:

  • Phony Payment Scam: A scammer will send a fake payment confirmation for goods or services. After the seller has shipped the item or completed the service, the scammer cancels the payment or the seller discovers that the payment had never gone through in the first place. 

  • Phishing Scams: Scammers often send emails or text messages pretending to be Venmo or Cash App customer service. These messages typically ask users to log in to their accounts via a link provided in the message. However, the link leads to a fake site where the scammer captures the user's login credentials to gain access to their account, funds, and private information. 

  • Fake Check Scams: This scam typically takes place when you list an item for sale online. The scammer will propose sending you a check instead of paying you via Venmo or Cash App. You complete the deal, but lo and behold, the check bounces — leaving you empty-handed. In some cases, you may even be on the hook with your bank or get fined for the bounced check. 

  • Overpayment Scams: Scammers may overpay for an item or service, and then ask the seller to refund the excess amount on Venmo or Cash App. By the time the recipient realizes the original payment was fraudulent, they have already sent the "refund," resulting in a net loss. 

  • Fake Friend Scams: You receive a Venmo or Cash app request from a friend or family member who's urgently in need of cash. Beware, this could be a scammer manipulating your friend's account by pretending to be them. To avoid this trap, always verify with your friend offline before sending any money.

Shot of a young businessman looking stressed while working in a modern officePhoto credit: Delmaine Donson/istockphoto

You Got Scammed on Venmo or Cash App — Now What?

If you fell for a Venmo or Cash App scam, there are steps you can take to try and get your money back. These include: 

  • Report the Issue: Both Venmo and Cash App have built-in tools to report fraudulent transactions. Navigate to the transaction in question and select the Need Help? option to report or dispute a fraudulent transaction. Unfortunately, once you send money on Venmo or Cash App, the transactions cannot be cancelled, and the only way to try and get your money back is by requesting a refund through the app. 

  • Reach Out to Customer Support: To cover all your bases, you should also reach out to the app's customer support team to inform them of the scam. Provide them with all the necessary details about the transaction, including the transaction ID, date, amount, and the reason you believe it was fraudulent.

  • Document Everything: We can't stress this step enough. Be sure to keep a record of all interactions related to the scam, including any correspondence you had with the scammer and the app's customer service. This can be useful if you need to escalate the situation or if you decide to report the scam to the police or to a consumer protection agency.

  • Change Your Account Details: If you suspect that your account has been compromised, change your password immediately. If you have a debit or credit card linked to the app, contact your bank or credit card company to inform them of the situation. If possible, we recommend switching your account from public to private to prevent future scammers from hacking or impersonating your account to scam others. 

  • Report It to Law Enforcement: If the scam involved a significant amount of money, you might want to report it to your local law enforcement agency or the police. In the U.S., you can report scams or fraudulent activity to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through their website. If the scam involves a business, you can also report it to the Better Business Bureau.

The Bottom Line

As infuriating as scammers can be (I mean, get a real job, am I right?), there are ways to stay ahead of them and identify potential scams before they take place. By implementing these protective measures and double checking who you're sending money to, you can bolster your defenses and minimize the risk of falling victim to pesky scammers and their tactics. 

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