Q: I love the convenience of payment apps like Cash App and Venmo, but I’ve heard there’s been an increase in scams within these apps. How can I continue to use a payment app without compromising my safety?
A: Payment apps offer users the ability to effortlessly send payments to friends. This makes it easy to split the tab at a shared meal, buy a present for a mutual friend and quickly pay back a small loan. Unfortunately, though, scammers are using these apps to cheat people out of their money.
Here’s all you need to know about payment app scams and how to protect yourself from being the next victim.
How the payment app scams play out
There are several variations of the mobile payment app scam. Most scams involve hijacking the victim’s linked checking account or credit card and using it to pay for their own purchases. Now, though, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing people’s attitudes toward money, there is another, more nefarious scam being played out through mobile payment apps.
In this trending scam, a payment app user participates in a contest on Twitter or another social media platform. The contest host is giving away a bundle of cash to one lucky winner to help them through COVID-19. After entering the contest, the victim receives a message informing them they’ve won the giveaway — but they need to pay a small fee to verify themselves and receive their cash prize. The victim pays the fee and waits for their big payday. Unfortunately, though, it never lands in their account, and they won’t see the funds they used to pay the “fee” ever again.
Sometimes, the victim has not entered any contests but receives a message appearing to be sent directly from the payment app informing them they’ve won a cash prize — with a small processing fee attached.
The scam can be pulled off through any payment app, but most commonly targets Cash App users. Likewise, scammers can pull off the scam through several social media platforms. However, you’ll usually find it on Twitter.
Luckily, you don’t need to give up on the convenience of mobile payment apps just yet. Protect yourself by learning about the medium used to pull it off and how to recognize the scam’s red flags.
Here’s what you need to know about Cash App:
- Cash App will never ask customers to send it money as a “processing fee” or for “verification.”
- It will not ask users to share their PIN or sign-in code outside the app.
- There are currently only two official Twitter accounts, @cashapp, and @cashsupport, both of which have blue, verified checkmarks. If you receive a tweet from another account appearing to be from the app, it is likely bogus.
If a post or tweet looks suspicious, don’t take any chances; ignore it and move on.
If you have fallen victim to a mobile payment app scam, contact the app’s support through the app or website. If you report the scam early enough, they may be able to reverse the transaction. You can also report the scam to the FTC at ftc.gov and let your friends know about the circulating scam so they don’t fall victim to it themselves.
Mobile payment apps make transferring money easy. But they also make it easy for scammers to con victims out of their money. Stay alert and practice caution to keep your money safe from scams.
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a payment app scam? Tell us about it in the comments.
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