- Common Venmo scams you need know about
- How to stay safe when using Venmo
- How to enhance security on your device
Common Venmo scams you need know about
A Venmo scam can take many forms, but they all involve people with Venmo accounts losing money in some way. The number of people being defrauded through Venmo is on the rise, largely because of the app’s growing popularity. The more people who have a Venmo account, the more potential victims there are for a hacker to exploit.
Venmo isn’t the only app being targeted by scammers, of course. Hackers are everywhere online, and as our lives become more integrated with apps and online interfaces, we face ever more risks. While the scams below all involve Venmo, many of the techniques and tools used to carry out these attacks could be leveled against anyone online.
Frauds and hacking strategies evolve constantly, but these are the most up to date scams at time of writing.
1. The “accidental” money transfer
Venmo scammers can send you money using a stolen credit card and then contact you claiming that it was a mistake. The scammer asks you to just send the money to their Venmo account.
Later, when Venmo discovers that a transaction was made from a stolen card, it takes back the money from your account, while the hacker keeps the money you sent to them.
2. The fake buyer
While Venmo discourages people from using the app to receive funds from strangers, many users still do so. This can open you up to serious risks. Let’s say you sold your old laptop online, and a buyer paid you on Venmo. After you send the laptop to the new owner, you’re notified that they retracted the payment, scamming you out of the item you “sold” them.
Hackers can impersonate Venmo and send you an email, asking you to update your payment information or personal details. This is known as a phishing scam. When you click on a link contained in the email, it can redirect you to a website that looks exactly like Venmo’s login page, but operated by a hacker. If you input your login details, the hacker will be able to view this information and can then take control of your account.
Smishing is very similar to phishing, but uses SMS text messages instead of emails. In a Venmo texting scam, a scammer sends you an SMS to try to trick you into exposing your Venmo login details. Alternatively, the message could contain a link to infect your device with spyware. This spyware can then quietly monitor your device (logging your keystrokes, for example) and steal your login credentials the next time you use Venmo.
5. Identity theft
A scammer could steal your friend’s Venmo account, contact you, and ask to borrow money. Once you’ve sent the money, you find out that your friend never asked for any; their identity was stolen. Bad actors often steal people’s identities and use these guises to extract cash and sensitive information from other victims.
Even without breaking into an account, identity thieves can still wreak havoc. If the scammer can access stolen credit card information or even publicly available details like your address and employment history, they could manufacture a convincing online persona and try to scam people who know you.
6. The “stranger in the street” scam
It doesn’t take long for someone to open Venmo and send themselves money from your account. In this scam, strangers approach people and ask to use their phone for an emergency. Once they get the phone, they quickly open the Venmo app and send money to their own account. If they maintain a convincing act, you might not notice the loss till long after they’ve departed.
7. Romance scams
In a Venmo romance scam, the perpetrator contacts a victim through social media or some other online platform. They establish a romantic relationship with that person, possibly using fake photos on their internet profiles. Once the victim has been lulled into a false sense of security, the scammer explains that they are in some kind of trouble (perhaps having lost their bank cards while traveling) and asks the victim to send them money via Venmo, promising to pay it back in the near future.
As soon as the money is transferred, the scammer moves the money from their Venmo to another account and cuts off contact with the victim.
8. Paper check scam
Paper check scams involve the attacker sending the victim a check, but asking them to send money to the attacker’s Venmo account. Typically, the amount sent via check is much larger than the amount asked for. Once the victim transfers the money, they’ll find that the check bounces.
The simplest way to avoid this situation is not to make Venmo payments based on paper checks.
9. Overpayment scam
The Venmo overpayment scam takes advantage of the same factors that the “accidental” money transfer scam is based on. During a transaction, the attacker uses a hacked Venmo account or a stolen card to transfer you more money that you asked for (you can imagine this sort of scam occurring while trying to buy something through an online marketplace). The attacker then contacts you and asks you to send them back the amount that was overpaid.
The problem is that, once it is discovered that the payment you received was from a hacked account or a stolen card, you will be required to pay that money back. By that time, the hacker will have withdrawn the money you sent them and deleted their Venmo.
10. Fake investment scams
An increasingly common scam involves fraudsters offering to generate money for victims through investments. These scammers rely on most people having a limited knowledge of how online trading and cryptocurrency works, and will promise that, if the victim Venmos them a small sum of money, they will invest and generate a large profit. Of course, the returns never manifest.
11. Onboarding fees
In this scam, a criminal posts a job listing on the internet. When someone applies for the position, the scammer holds a quick online interview and then confirms that the applicant has got the job. However, the scammer then asks their victim to transfer them money via Venmo to cover the costs of onboarding (for example, setting them up with a new computer to allow for home working).
The scammer will assure their victim that the money will be refunded to them at the end of the month, but as soon as the Venmo payment has been made, communication stops.
How to stay safe when using Venmo
Using online banking and payment services requires common sense and precautions. We recommend that you double-check every payment before making it and follow these steps to stay safe:
- Be wary of any strangers making contact with you. If someone you don’t know contacts you, be alert. You should be especially careful if they urge you to follow links or URLs in emails and other messages. Even if they already seem to know personal and financial information about you, the person contacting you could still be a scammer who found those details elsewhere online.
- Avoid sending money to somebody outside your social circle. Venmo is best used for small money transfers with close friends and family. If you don’t know someone well, or at all, don’t engage in Venmo transactions with them.
- Don’t use Venmo for receiving payments for goods or services. When you want to make a payment for something, use the credit card for your bank account, rather than Venmo. While Venmo is a relatively safe service, it can be harder to track down scammers who use it, especially if they hacked someone else’s account.
- Don’t click on any link in your email or SMS. If you receive a message containing a link, you’ll always be safer if you don’t engage with it. Even if the email looks like it came from Venmo, there is still a chance that you’re just dealing with a convincing scam.
- If something suspicious happens, contact Venmo’s customer service immediately. Whether you’re contacting them about stolen credit cards or suspicious messages, it’s always better to speak to Venmo support sooner rather than later.
- Never hand your phone to strangers. It only takes a few seconds for someone to open Venmo and transfer money to another account, so don’t give your phone to anyone you don’t know.
To make sure you don’t fall victim to a Venmo scam, you should also make sure the device you run Venmo on is protected. Keeping your devices secure will also boost overall digital safety.
How to enhance security on your device
To keep your device secured, follow these steps:
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA). Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security, which should be implemented on all your accounts. When somebody’s trying to access your account from a different device, Venmo will send you an SMS or an email to confirm your identity.
- Use a strong password. “123456” or “iloveyou” are weak passwords and the right software can crack them in milliseconds. We recommend using special characters and numbers along with upper- and lower-case letters in your passwords. If you’re taking your security seriously, it’s best to get yourself a password manager.
- Get a VPN. A VPN encrypts your traffic and hides your IP address, protecting you from hackers and snoopers. If you often use public Wi-Fi, a VPN is a must, as wrongdoers can set up fake hotspots and use these to steal your personal information. NordVPN also has Threat Protection, a feature that helps you identify malware-ridden files during download, stops you from landing on malicious websites, and blocks trackers and intrusive ads.