Police Departments Are Warning of the Sneaky Venmo Scam That Can Drain Your Bank Account in Seconds

Image of phone with Venmo app.TPOphoto

Smartphone apps have made it easier to manage everyday tasks without having to open a computer or visit a place in person. We can order food, buy groceries, book hair appointments, and pay bills.

It is also easy to send and request mobile payments using an app like Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, or Cash App. But all that convenience has paved the way for scammers to do you dirty. Real dirty. Law enforcement agencies are warning people to be on the lookout for the latest Venmo con.

Strangers are relying on unsuspecting targets to allow them to “borrow” their phones. A person is approached by a random passerby who requests to use their phone for a quick minute. Happy to help out, the person hands their phone over to the stranger who then pretends to use it with honorable intentions.

Honorable they are not, because said stranger is busy transferring money from that helpful person’s Venmo account into their own. In many cases, it goes unnoticed until hours or days later, and by then, bank accounts are hurting.

Police are alerting college campuses and the general public to the scam as these apps have become a convenient way to pay friends for a night out, gas, or rent.

You may be wondering why it’s so easy. By default, Venmo doesn’t require a PIN or any other step to send cash when the app is open. Users need to change their security settings to activate the PIN feature which can be done from a computer or through the phone app.

Just open the app and click on “Settings” and locate the security option. You can choose to enable the PIN function or Touch/fingerprint recognition. Enter a 4-digit PIN which will be needed to access the app from then on. The touch feature will need to be active on your device to show up as a Venmo security option.

Authorities are encouraging people to be protective of their phones by:

  • Not allowing a stranger to use it.
  • Dial or text the phone number on their behalf (if you want to be nice and let them “use” your phone).
  • Enable all security settings on payment apps.

The other weird scam going around has to do with reversal transactions. You may notice that someone you don’t know sent money to you through the app. Next, they will ask for you to send it back to them, but unbeknownst to you, they have already requested that the company reverse the transaction.

However, you wind up sending the money back – which is your own money! That means the scammer gets paid twice and your transaction looks like you meant to send it. In that case, don’t touch the money and notify Venmo (or any other payment vendor).

We hope you don’t become a victim of any of these scams, but to get better informed, click on this video from CBS 4 to learn more about mobile payment safety. Remember to secure your phone!

Have you ever run into a scam with Venmo or other payment platform? Were you aware of this latest scheme? What will you do to protect yourself?