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Venmo is an easy way to send money to friends and family. But because it’s so popular and convenient, it’s also a platform cybercriminals use to try to scam you. Learn how to keep clear of the latest Venmo scams. Then, install a comprehensive online security app like Avast One to help protect against scams, phishing attacks, and other online threats.
Venmo is a cash transfer app popular in the United States that lets users send and receive payments through a simple interface, without exchanging bank account details. After linking your bank account to the app, you can freely exchange money with other Venmo users. Your Venmo balance can then be transferred to your bank account whenever you wish.
This Article Contains:
You can use Venmo to:
Make payments with friends
Purchase goods and services
Shop on authorized merchant websites, apps, or business profiles
Buy and sell cryptocurrency
Venmo started as a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app, but now it’s an all-purpose cash transfer app used by millions of people and businesses.
Venmo is safe to use when interacting with people you trust. It’s not safe to use Venmo with strangers you haven’t verified. Venmo has security features in place to authenticate users and keep transactions secure, but scammers can make fake Venmo accounts to trick other users into unsafe actions.
Venmo is safe for sellers looking to do legitimate business, as the buyer can’t just cancel a payment once it’s sent. Venmo is also safe for buyers, but there’s no guarantee Venmo will refund money if you’re scammed.
Here are some safety features Venmo offers:
Mandatory verified phone number and email
Venmo Purchase Protection Program
Encryption of data transmission
Use two-factor authentication to help prevent Venmo fraud.
Venmo is regulated by the United States Treasury Department and must comply with the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (FDI Act) for money transfers. That means Venmo sometimes requires a SSN to comply with federal regulations.
If you need to provide your SSN, do it directly in the app. If someone claims to be from Venmo and contacts you via a third-party platform to get your SSN, it could be a scam to steal your Social Security number.
The convenience that makes Venmo so popular also gives scammers potentially easy access to victims. You can contact any public account on Venmo, or send money to someone if you have their phone number, email, or Venmo username.
Here are some of the most common Venmo scams out there and how to avoid them:
How the scam works: A scammer contacts you claiming to be from Venmo because they’ve seen an unauthorized transaction and need to verify your account. To do that, they need to send you an authentication code, which you must then share with them. In reality, they need the code to get past 2FA protocols and break into your account.
How to avoid it: Never share verification codes with anyone, and ignore anyone who claims to be from Venmo asking to confirm your identity. No one from Venmo will contact you asking for a verification code.
How the scam works: A scammer advertises low-supply/high-demand items such as a limited edition sneaker or a sold-out video game console, and asks for payment through Venmo. After you rush to make a payment, the scammer disappears.
How to avoid it: If you’re paying a personal Venmo account, tag it as a “payment” before you send it. This way, you’re covered by Venmo Purchase Protection in case something goes awry. Otherwise, make payments for goods only to authorized business profiles.
How the scam works: A scammer negotiates a purchase with you on an online marketplace like Craigslist, then says they’ve paid or Venmo is holding the payment until you upload the shipping information. They usually send a spoofed email with a faked screenshot so it looks like they’ve made the payment.
How to avoid it: There’s no feature on Venmo to hold payments until sellers ship items. Never ship an item until the funds appear in your Venmo balance.
How the scam works: You get a Venmo payment out of nowhere. Shortly after, you get a frantic message explaining the money was sent to you by accident, asking you to return it. But the “accidental payment” is from a stolen or fraudulent account, and will be reversed soon — any money you send the scammer will be gone forever.
How to avoid it: Never respond directly to users about “accidental payments.” Contact Venmo and let them know all the details so they can investigate whether it’s a scam and reverse the transaction if they see fit.
How the scam works: Venmo refund scams, or overpayment scams, are a variation of the “accidental payment” scam. The scammer sends you too much money and asks you to refund the overpayment. The scammer disappears after being refunded, and the “overpayment” is soon reversed, since it was from a stolen account.
How to avoid it: Only refund through Venmo support, and don’t be afraid to call Venmo at (855) 812-4430 if you’re unsure about a claim.
How the scam works: A scammer pays you for an item by check, but “accidentally” writes too much for the amount, and asks you to refund the excess through Venmo. The check clears when you deposit it, making it seem real, but it’s stolen and will bounce.
How to avoid it: Don’t make a payment on Venmo in exchange for a check.
How the scam works: Also known as a pyramid scheme or money circle, a scammer contacts you saying you can make some quick cash — for example, they may claim that if you send them $20 on Venmo you can get $80 back when enough people buy in. Legitimate investments through financial institutions are one thing, “get rich quick” schemes through Venmo are very different and shouldn’t be trusted.
How to avoid it: Never pay money via Venmo to get big returns fast. Sometimes scammers also impersonate a friend or family member to rope you into the scam, so double-check any messages that seem off.
How the scam works: You get a legitimate-sounding email or text from Venmo saying you’ve won a prize. To cash in, you just need to click the link and sign into your Venmo account or provide information, which the scammer then uses to access your account.
How to avoid it: Enter your Venmo login details only on Venmo.com and the verified Venmo app. Fake links can lead to a spoofed Venmo site aiming to steal login credentials, or the links might be infected with malware.
How the scam works: A romance scam often involves a catfisher who creates a fake profile on social media, then contacts you feigning romantic interest. After building trust, they persuade you to send them money through Venmo for some made up reason, such as a late paycheck or for plane tickets to come visit you. After you send them money, they disappear.
How to avoid it: Never send money to anyone you meet online and haven’t met in person and thoroughly trust.
Romance scams can be carried out through fake payments on Venmo.
How the scam works: A scammer poses as a loved one and contacts you saying they have an emergency and need you to send money on Venmo now.
How to avoid it: Be skeptical of any emergency money requests in general. If you’re concerned the claim is actually real, contact your loved one on the phone or face to face if possible.
How the scam works: A scammer stops you in public to use your phone to message someone or look up directions. When you offer your phone, they open your Venmo account, drain it, hand you back the phone, and disappear.
How to avoid it: Never give your phone to a stranger. If you need to, write the text yourself or look up the map and show the person while holding the phone.
How the scam works: You get a fake Venmo email or a fake Venmo text that looks legit, asking you to verify your financial or personal information by clicking a link or filling out a form. After you “verify,” your info is stolen and your accounts are compromised.
How to avoid it: Learn how to identify a fake text message and how to spot email scams. And never provide login details from a link sent to you in a text or email. Only sign into the Venmo website or app directly.
How the scam works: Tech support scams convince you to call tech support for a well-known company but you end up talking to a scammer. For example, a malicious website could cause your computer to freeze. You get a pop-up with an official-looking logo or message, urging you to call the scammer’s phone number — they ask you to send money via Venmo to fix the issue.
How to avoid it: Only contact companies using contact details on their official website. Preferably, type the company’s website directly into the address bar rather than into a search engine, as some hackers use pharming to trick you into visiting a fake site.
Venmo tech support scams urge you to call a fake helpline then pay for the service on Venmo.
How the scam works: A scammer targets job seekers by creating fake remote job ads. When you apply, the company contacts you, conducts a fake interview, and offers you the job. The only catch is you have to pay bogus onboarding fees through Venmo.
How to avoid it: You shouldn’t have to pay anything to start a new job. If you’re unsure, search online for the company offering you the job, along with keywords like “scam,” “review,” or “legit.” If they’re trying to scam you, they’ve probably scammed others too.
Knowing how to spot Venmo scams will help keep you safe. You should also follow Venmo’s terms of service, and look through Venmo’s security protocols to learn the few instances Venmo might contact you. Also, consider following Venmo on social media in case any new threats emerge.
Here are some more ways to stay safer on Venmo:
Use Venmo only with people you know and trust. If you’re making a legitimate payment for goods, make sure it’s to an authorized business profile or a personal profile. And always tag the transactions you make as a “payment.”
Don’t post any personally identifying information publicly. Social media is constantly patrolled by scammers looking for a way into your inbox and other online accounts. And public information makes for some of the weakest passwords and security questions, which can lead to identity theft.
It’s easier to cancel a charge or file a chargeback with a credit card than with a debit card. But Venmo payments made by credit cards are charged 3% (purchases from authorized merchants are free), and you need to link a debit card if you want to transfer funds from your Venmo account.
Make a habit of checking your bank statements to keep track of suspicious activity. You can also set up fraud alerts on free credit monitoring services like Credit Karma.
Your Venmo transaction activity is public by default. But this also means scammers can monitor your activity. Venmo also offers “Friends only” and “Private” privacy settings. Private is the safest, so make the switch to help avoid Venmo scams.
Send items only after payment reaches your Venmo account. Sell items only through a business profile or a personal account eligible for selling, because those types of accounts enjoy protections under the Venmo Purchase Protection program.
Don’t accept any mysterious payments you get on Venmo or other cash apps. Wait for Venmo to reverse the payment or contact customer service.
Random Venmo messages saying to click a link to sign in are a scam. Smishing texts and fake emails are designed to steal your information or install malware. This goes for all platforms and logins from Venmo, as well as other types of scams like Apple ID phishing scams.
There’s rarely a good reason to let a stranger use your phone. If you decide to let someone use your phone, make sure to send a text on their behalf or look up whatever they need, and continue to hold the phone while you show them. If you have your passwords saved, scammers can quickly drain your accounts. Also, log into Venmo and other accounts manually instead of saving login credentials.
Enable two-factor authentication to verify your identity through tools that use biometric data or apps like Google Authenticator, and always run a trusted free antivirus on your devices. Avoid using Venmo on public Wi-Fi unless you use a VPN, otherwise a hacker may have an easier time intercepting your connection.
Use a Venmo pin number and biometric identifier to keep your account more protected.
Take screenshots if you’re scammed on Venmo, and record any information about the scam you can. Then, provide that information to Venmo. You may need to secure any linked accounts, too.
Go to Venmo’s official contact page to submit a complaint through a proper channel. Submit any evidence you have about the scam, including images. If you receive a phishing email, send it directly to email@example.com. To report scam texts or calls, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Change your password immediately if you’ve been scammed, and use long and unique passwords for your online accounts. The best password managers will generate strong passwords for you and remember them. Delete your bank account information from Venmo and add it again once your accounts are secured.
Inform your bank about the Venmo scam — they can freeze accounts or bank cards linked to Venmo, and set up alerts for future suspicious activity. Your bank may also offer guidance on how to get back money from Venmo if you’re scammed.
Report internet scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), keeping in mind the separate sites for reporting fraud and reporting identity theft. Filing a report with the FTC could help law enforcement partners with wider investigations. You should also learn how to report and prevent credit card fraud.
Make Avast One your first line of defense against scams. Its real-time threat intelligence technology monitors your apps for suspicious behavior and blocks malicious links to help prevent malware from infecting your device. Keep scammers at bay with just a few clicks — download Avast One for free today.
You only have to give your social security number to Venmo in certain cases: if you send $300 or more in one week, if you create a group account, if you transfer $1,000 or more to your bank account in one week, or if you’re a sole proprietor with a business profile and process more than 200 transactions in a calendar year.
Venmo has a Purchase Protection Program that offers some protection when buying or selling from a business account or a personal account that qualifies. But if you transfer money to a stranger or get scammed on Venmo, you most likely won’t get refunded.
In most instances, Venmo won’t cover you if you get scammed unless the transaction is covered under the Purchase Protection Program. But you should report the scam to them so they can investigate further.
You can’t request a chargeback on Venmo but you can open a dispute. If you used a debit or credit card to pay for something over Venmo, you can also try to request a chargeback with your linked card issuer.
You can only Venmo yourself if you have two or more Venmo accounts (each would need a separate linked bank account), although you’re only allowed to have one personal account open. You can’t move money between two different payment methods.