Don’t return money someone accidentally sends you on Venmo
Venmo is an easy way to send money back and forth to friends, family and the guy who runs the business the office fantasy football league. But what if you received a Venmo Message that says you wanted received money from someone you don’t know and that you didn’t wait? Chances are it’s not an accident or a fluke: It’s a scam.
The the practice of sending money by “accident”– and then asking for it back in apologetic and a bit panicked tones—is a scam that has made the rounds not only on Venmo, but other similar payment apps such as Zelle, PayPal or Apple Pay. It’s a scam prey on people’s goodness and credulity.
How does the “accidental” money sending scam work?
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), fraudsters buy stolen credit cards from the dark web and link them to their payment app of choice. They then start sending random people money by “accident” and continue to message them asking for the money back, saying it was sent by mistake. The fraudsters switch the stolen credit cards from the payment apps and link their own personal cards instead, waiting for the victims to send them “clean” (non-stolen) the money back.
If you’re part of the group that sent money back, you didn’t actually send it the same, for example $500 from the stolen credit cards back to them. The money you send is from your accounting. Eventually, the payment apps will catch on the stolen credit card fraud because the original owners of cards from the dark web will report their cards stolen—and they are supported by their bank. The stolen funds will eventually be removed from your account (because that’s where it ended up), leaving you $500 poorer and the scammer $500 richer.
Unlike credit cards, many digital payment apps do not take responsibility for fraud. That responsibility is left to you. According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, most of this is fraudulent process is automatedso scammers make a lot of money with very little effort.
What should you do and not What to do if someone sends you money by “accident”?
Never send money back to someone you don’t know on any payment app, unless it’s a friend or family member you know or your payment app offers fraud security like PayPal goods and services. If someone really sent you money by mistake, they can contact the payment app and dispute it. But leave the money in question in your account with the expectation that it will be removed gradually. You don’t have to worry about your account being hacked or vulnerable just because someone sent you or asked for money from you. What you can is to contact the payment app’s support team and they should be able to reverse the payment sent to you without the risk of being scammed.
The following are the recommendations from the BBB on how to protect yourself from fraud with payment apps:
- Use money transfer with friends: Protect yourself from fraud by only using money transfer apps for their intended purpose—send money to people you know personally.
- If someone sends you money by mistake, ask them to cancel the transaction: The sender can request that the supplier cancel the transaction. If the person refuses, it’s probably a scam.
- 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.
- Link the money transfer app to a credit card. As with many other purchases, using a credit card will help protect you if you don’t receive the goods or services you paid for. Linking a debit card or directly to your bank account doesn’t give you that extra protection.
What should you do if you sent money back to a scammer?
If you sent money to a scammer, there is almost no way to make it happen back, unless you had your credit card linked to the payment app. In that In that case, you can contact your bank and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction and they should be able to help you.