You should seriously change those Venmo privacy settings

You should seriously change those Venmo privacy settings

Millions of people use mobile payment apps like PayPal’s Venmo and Square’s Cash App every day to transfer money directly from their bank accounts to friends, family and merchants. These platforms offer convenience, but they are not without security risks, in part due to the combination of economics and social media. Users can also be targets for hackers who want to drain financial accounts.

But don’t worry—there are plenty of ways you can secure your Venmo and Cash App accounts with a few simple settings changes and privacy best practices. Here’s what to do.

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Basic tips to protect your privacy on Venmo and the Cash App

Both payment apps use encryption and fraud detection technology to protect account information. But to better ensure your safety, you should take some extra steps.

Use a randomly generated password

We know — you’re sick of hearing about how you need to spend unique passwords that are difficult to guess for each account. But it’s still true, especially when your money is involved. An easy way to do this is to use a password manager. Our favorites — included LastPass
, 1Password and The Bitwarden — offers a free level of service with all the basics: password storage, strong and secure password generation, and autofill features.

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A password manager can help keep your Venmo and Cash App accounts secure.

Angela Lang/CNET

Beware of common scams

Criminals are targeting users of apps like Venmo and PayPal in all sorts of clever ways. There have been reports of hackers impersonating Venmo and Cash App support staff, calling or texting users, “helping” them change their passwords, and then clearing their accounts.

Scam landlords have asked potential tenants for a deposit before offering apartment tours. Fraudulent pet owners have used a similar bait-and-switch, offering purebred animals at extremely low prices, asking for a down payment and then disappearing. Cash App’s support page is full of these types of accidents.

“No one at Venmo will ever contact you to ask for a password or verification code for your account,” according to the app’s security support page. The same applies to the Cash App.

If you fall victim to a scam on one of the apps, you should contact [email protected] or access resources via the Cash App page.

Don’t use banking apps on public Wi-Fi (or invest in a VPN)

Logging into a financial app on any public Wi-Fi network—for example, at a hotel, airport, or coffee shop—can give malicious actors an opportunity to break into your account. It’s happened on money-sharing apps before.

If you absolutely need to access your account and cannot use a trusted network, we recommend using one VPN to hide your activity from prying eyes. Here is how to set up a VPN on iPhone or Android and our list of the best VPNs of 2022.

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Using a VPN while on public Wi-Fi is a good way to protect yourself while using an app related to finance.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Do not send money to strangers

Avoid sending payments to people you don’t know and trust through Venmo and the Cash App. Neither app is currently optimized for buying or selling goods or services, though Venmo is working on a business profile feature to make retail and commercial sales more secure. If you are a vendor considering using Cash App, it is better to create a business account through Quadratic payments.

Read more: 6 Best Payment Apps

Make all your Venmo transactions private

This is an absolute must. When you create a Venmo account, all of your transactions are public — meaning anyone on the internet can see exactly what you’re sending, and to whom. This public record has been used to find out everything from who won The Bachelor before a season aired to an alleged political investigation into sex trafficking.

Making all your transactions private by default is extremely easy. Open the Venmo app and tap the three lines in the upper-right corner of the menu. Press Settings > Privacyand under Default privacy setting, tap Private. Now all future payments will only be visible to you and the recipient.

You can also change the privacy settings for previous transactions. On the same privacy page, under more, press Previous transactions. You will see the option to Switch to Friendsor Change all to private.

An advantage of the Cash App: All transactions are private by default.

the venmo app

If you don’t make your Venmo transactions private, anyone can see them.

Venmo

Enable two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is a solid way to add another layer of security to your account. When you sign in on a new device, Venmo will send a code to the phone number registered with your account, which you must enter correctly to access your account.

To enable two-factor authentication on Venmo, open the app and tap the three lines in the upper-right corner of the menu. Press Settingsand under security press Remembered units. You’ll see the device you’re currently using, and possibly others you’ve used in the past. When you sign in with any of the devices on your list, you don’t need to enter a verification code. To remove any of the devices, swipe left and tap Delete. If you want to enable two-factor authentication on all devices, you can delete them all from this list.

On Cash App, every time you log into your account on a new device, you will be sent a one-time login code. The app recommends adding two-factor authentication to your email account associated with the app for better protection.

Set up a pin or turn on Face ID

Enabling Face ID or a PIN adds more security to your account when you open the app or make a transaction.

On Venmo, you can set this up so that every time you open the app, you either have to enter your Face ID (or fingerprint scan depending on the device) or your PIN. To get started, tap the three lines in the upper right corner of the menu. Press Settingsand under security press Face ID and PIN code. Press the switch to Activate Face ID and PIN. The app will ask you to enter a new passcode, and if you’re using an iPhone, you’ll get a pop-up notification asking if you want to allow Venmo to use Face ID to unlock your account. Press OK. If you are using an Android phone, it may say PIN code and biometric unlocking.

On the Cash App, you can set up a security lock that requires your Face ID, Touch ID or a pin to transfer money. Tap your profile icon in the top right. Press Privacy and securityand turn on under Security Safety lock. The app will ask you to enter a PIN, then enter your email address to confirm your choice with a code.

Setting up a PIN or biometric login can help secure your accounts.

Brett Pearce/CNET

Turn on payment sending notifications

Get notified of unauthorized activity on your Venmo or Cash App accounts by turning on notifications.

On Venmo, go to Settings > Notifications. Choose from push, text or email notifications. Under Push notifications, you can turn on and off notifications for bank transfers, payment received, payment sent and much more. At least turning on the payment sent notification is a good way to get an instant notification of anyone else sending money through your account.

On the Cash App, tap your profile icon and tap Alerts. Press to turn on push notifications by text or email.

Link a credit card instead of your bank account

While you can add a checking or savings account to Venmo, it’s safer to link it to a credit card. Although you will be subject to a 3% transaction fee, credit cards usually have much stronger protection against theft and fraud than a regular bank account.

To change your payment method on Venmo, go to Settings > Payment methodsand press on Add bank or card. Then press on Cardand enter your credit card information.

On Cash App, you must provide your bank account information before entering a credit card. However, you can sign up for a free prepaid debit card so you can spend money that people send you through the app on the card.

For more, check out best current accounts, best savings accounts and best credit monitoring services.

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