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April 1, 2021

Venmo Scams 101: Protect Yourself and Your Wallet

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Gone are the days of needing cash on hand to pay your friends back for lunch, to buy that coffee table off Kijiji, to gift your cousin money for their birthday. Thanks to the power of technology, we can easily transfer money to and accept money from others through our devices. Many apps offer money-transfer services, including PayPal and the PayPal-owned company Venmo. Venmo in particular handles hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions every year. Unfortunately, any digital service that deals with money is appealing for hackers, who can steal a lot of that money with a few clever tricks. These are some of the most common Venmo scams, as well as HotBot’s tips for protecting yourself against them:

  • Identity spoofing
  • Phishing
  • Fake buyers
  • Identifying scams

Identity Spoofing

Although Venmo is a money-transfer service, it also involves elements of social media. Users create profiles with which to connect with friends, family, and other acquaintances. Unfortunately, these profiles are one of Venmo’s greatest risks. Cybercriminals can create their own accounts and make them look like the profiles of people you know. With these profiles, they can request money from you, and if you give it, it’s lost.

In addition, if your friends’ accounts are hacked, you may also get requests for money that they don’t even know about.

Phishing

Cybercriminals love using phishing scams in as many ways as possible. When it comes to Venmo, they can create emails that look like they come directly from the payment service. These emails may request that you update your payment information, change your password, or login to review policy changes. If you follow any links within the email, they’ll take you to a website that looks like Venmo, but really isn’t. Instead, if you type in your personal information, the hacker behind the fake website can see and steal that information, and use it against you.

Fake Buyers

Venmo partially operates with a policy of honesty between users. Because of this, a user who sent someone money can also retract it. If you send money just between friends and family, this is less likely to be an issue. However, if you conduct transactions with strangers, you may open yourself up to greater risk. For example, if you sell a washing machine to a stranger on Venmo, they can transfer you the money, take the washing machine, then retract the payment, leaving you without a dryer and without the money for it.

Avoiding Venmo Scams

Cybercriminals are crafty and clever. Their scams are often hard to identify, but with a bit of knowledge and diligence, you can protect yourself. These tips will help:

  • Only conduct transactions with people you personally know and trust
  • Don’t connect with strangers on Venmo
  • Don’t use Venmo to pay for goods and services from non-business accounts
  • Avoid links in emails from Venmo (and any other website; navigate to the websites independently to take any needed actions)
  • Contact Venmo customer service immediately if you notice suspicious activity or think you’ve fallen for a scam

In addition to avoiding Venmo scams, you should also increase the security of your devices and accounts in general. You can do this easily by:

  • Using a strong password. Strong passwords typically include lower-case and upper-case letters, numbers and symbols, are 12-16 characters long, and don’t contain personal information or words that can be found in the dictionary.
  • Enabling two-factor authentication. This extra layer of protection requires that a secondary, one-time code (sent to your phone or other personal devices) be used to access your accounts, in addition to your password. In the event that your password is stolen, hackers still can’t access your accounts, because they won’t be able to see the secondary code on your phone/device.
  • Using a VPN. VPNs encrypt your activity and make you anonymous online. This prevents snoops from seeing your personal information (like your Venmo login details) if you’re browsing on unsecured networks. 

Millions of people use Venmo to handle their personal transactions. If you’re one of them, you don’t want to accidentally become a victim of a Venmo scam. Fortunately, by using these tips for recognizing and protecting yourself from these attacks, you can keep your account and your money safe.

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