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'Accidentally' receiving money on Venmo is almost always a scam

Experts warn not to send the money back – this is likely to lead to losing more money

Photo (c) Guido Mieth - Getty Images
An older Venmo scam is making its rounds to consumers once again. In the middle of the pandemic, the Better Business Bureau reported on a Venmo scam that involved users “accidentally” receiving money from people they don’t know. 

Scammers use stolen credit cards to send a few hundred dollars to their victim. Then, victims receive a counter notification from the same user asking for the money back, with scammers citing their own mistake.

However, the scammer replaces the stolen credit card number with their own. This way, when the victim sends back the money, it goes into the scammer's account. 

A recent report from the Los Angeles Times showed that more than two years later, Venmo users are still being targeted with this same scam. Additionally, it’s not just Venmo users who are susceptible to this scam. PayPal, which owns Venmo, and Zelle users have experienced similar attacks. 

What to do if you receive money from a stranger

The biggest threat here is that consumers will send money to the scammers. This can be problematic because the person whose credit card information was stolen will look for a refund, and that money comes from the victim’s account.

Then, if the victim transfers the money back to the sender, they lose that money again. Additionally, when using digital wallet apps, it can be difficult to get these types of transactions refunded, which can lead to losses of hundreds of dollars – if not more. 

Venmo recommends that users reach out to its support team in the event they receive payments from people they don’t know. The company will work to reverse the payment; however, they also suggest that users block any strangers who have sent money or requested money to ensure they don’t try again. 

How to protect yourself from scammers

The biggest tip for consumers is to avoid sending money back to strangers who may have “accidentally” sent it to them. This ensures that money won’t be stolen from your account, and scammers will have to take additional steps to try to keep the ruse going. 

Securing your Venmo app with a code or two-factor authentication can help protect your account from potential scammers. It’s also important for consumers to double-check all usernames and phone numbers when sending money on Venmo, Zelle, PayPal, or any other wallet-based app, and only transfer money to friends and family. 

The Better Business Bureau also recommends using a credit card, rather than a debit card, on your Venmo account to provide better security.

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