Venmo has become a popular and relatively safe way to quickly send money to friends and family members. Even the safest websites, though, can struggle with scam artists. When most people receive a request for money from a friend or family member, especially if it’s somebody very familiar, they’re usually inclined to help – but with Venmo scams on the rise, think twice before pressing the “send” button.

The scam can happen when someone receives a money request from a loved one via Venmo. There is usually a reason attached to request as well – lost wallet, groceries, gas or another common reason. The account looks legitimate because it’s using the name and perhaps even a profile picture of the friend. But take a closer look. The account name will usually be a character or two off from the real account name.

Using information from Venmo’s public feed, scammers can easily gather photos and information from any user account. They can even find out who has sent or received money from this account before, making it easy to decide on whom to perpetrate the scam.

This scam can also appear on other digital wallet apps such as Apple Pay, CashApp and Zelle. Unlike many credit cards, these apps typically do not cover any money lost due to fraud so be extra cautious about who you send money too.

Use BBB’s tips to avoid these types of scams:

  • Use money transfer with friends only. Protect yourself from scams by only using money transfer apps for their intended purpose — sending money to people you personally know.
  • Double 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 on their Venmo profile to view their public transaction history and information.
  • Keep your transactions private. Scammers use the information visible in Venmo’s public feed to find targets. By keeping your transactions private, you reduce your risk of being targeted by scammers.
  • 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 like Touch ID.
  • 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.

If you spot a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.

Marjorie Stephens is president/CEO of BBB Serving Northern Indiana.

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