BBB: Don’t send money to fake friends on Venmo | Generally

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If a friend or family member is in a dire situation and needs money urgently, they should be helped, right? Not if you are a con who pulls this new scam. Always double-check before sending money to a friend in need.

How the scam works

You received an impromptu Venmo request from a friend in need of money. Maybe your friend has lost his wallet and needs to buy groceries. Could you send a few hundred dollars to bridge them?

Sounds like a reasonable request. And it looks legitimate too. The message comes from an account that appears to be using your friend’s username and profile photo. But if you take a closer look, you find that the name is a character or two away from their real Venmo account.

Scammers take advantage of generous friends by changing their username and profile pictures to impersonate real app users. Using the information visible in the Venmo public feed, they can find out who this person sent or received money from before. Then scammers contact these users with monetary claims.

This scam is just one of many drawbacks to using digital wallet apps like PayPal, Venmo, Cell, and Apple Pay. Note that unlike credit cards, many digital wallet providers do not bear the cost of fraud. If you pay scammers with a digital wallet, you may not be able to successfully obtain a refund from the company.

BBB offers the following tips to protect yourself against Venmo identity fraud:

Check with your friend before sending cash. If you get an unusual request, call or text your friend to confirm their story. If you can’t reach them, you can also tap their Venmo profile to see their public transaction history and information.

Keep your transactions private. Scammers use the information visible on Venmo’s public feed to find targets. By keeping your transactions private, you reduce the risk of being attacked by fraudsters. Here are Venmo’s privacy settings.

Use money transfer with friends. Protect yourself against fraud by using money transfer apps only for their intended purpose – sending money to people you know personally.

Enable additional security settings. Check your account settings to see if you can activate additional security measures such as multi-factor authentication, the requirement of a PIN or the use of fingerprint recognition such as Touch ID.

Link your money transfer app to a credit card. As with many other purchases, using a credit card protects you when you don’t receive the goods or services for which you paid for. Linking it to a debit card or directly to your bank account does not give you this extra protection.

Learn more about how to stay safe using a peer-to-peer payment system like Cell, Venmo, or Apple Pay. Read about another Venmo scam that seems to have sent you money by mistake.

If you spot a scam (whether you lost money or not) report it to BBB ScamTracker. Reporting them can help prevent others from falling victim to scams. Stay up to date on the latest scams by subscribing to the BBB Scam Alerts emails.

For more tips on becoming a savvy consumer, see bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.


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