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Scam Alert: This Venmo scam sends you money “by accident”

If someone sends you money out of the blue, it’s probably an honest mistake, right? Not necessarily. If you use Venmo or another digital wallet, such as Zelle or Apple Pay, watch out for this high-tech twist on a classic con, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

The scam works by you receiving a message in Venmo. It reads something like: “Oops! Can you send that back?” You check your balance history, and someone you don’t know just sent you several hundred dollars. Must have been a mistake!  After all, it’s easy to mistype a username. You might think you are doing the right thing by returning the money, but don’t fall for it.

What’s happening here? Scammers connect stolen credit cards to Venmo and use them to transfer money to unsuspecting users. If you send the money back to the scammer, they will delete the stolen credit card from their account and add their own card in its place. Then, the money you are sending will go on to their personal card. Eventually, the stolen funds will be removed from your account, and you will be out that money.

This scam is just one of many cons using digital wallet apps, such as PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, and Apple Pay. Be aware that unlike credit cards, many digital wallet vendors will not shoulder the cost of fraud. If you pay scammers using a digital wallet, you may not ever get reimbursed.

Protect yourself when paying with a money transfer app by following this advice:

  • Use money transfer with friends: Protect yourself from scams by only using money transfer apps for their intended purpose — sending money to people you personally know.
  • If someone sends you money by mistake, ask them to cancel the transaction: The sender can request that the vendor cancel the transaction. If the person refuses, it’s probably a scam.

  • Enable additional security settings: Check your account settings to see if you can turn on additional security measures, such as multi-factor authentication, requiring a PIN, or using fingerprint recognition.
  • Link your money transfer app to a credit card. As with many other purchases, using a credit card will help protect you if you don’t get the goods or services you paid for. Linking to a debit card or directly to your bank account does not give you that added protection.

Learn more about staying safe when using a peer-to-peer payment system like Zelle, Venmo or Apple Pay in this BBB.org article.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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