This Is How Scammers Steal User Funds Through Venmo

By Bill Toulas / February 17, 2021

Venmo is a popular mobile payment service owned by PayPal, allowing people to send and receive money electronically and taking away all the hassle. Certain demographics like millennials in the United States, for example, are using it extensively to split the amounts for shared taxi rides or fast food restaurant bills, so naturally, it drew crooks' attention.

Apparently, scammers exploit the very convenience provided by the app, tricking the users with a sprinkle of social engineering and doing their nasty stuff in a few seconds. NordVPN has listed the four most common trickery methods, all targeting Venmo funds and all being quite ubiquitous out there.

First, there’s the “accidental” money transfer method where the victim receives money from an unknown person, and that person contacts them to declare the mistake. The card used for the transaction is stolen, so the action will be reverted by Venmo at a later stage. If the victim sends the money back in the meantime, they’ll essentially lose it.

The second trick is the retraction of a payment. Because Venmo transactions are seldom accompanied by an official invoice or a proof of purchase, people you don’t know can ask for a retraction, which the platform may approve of. So, if you’re selling your laptop to a stranger, don’t accept a Venmo payment for it. They’ll get their money back and get to keep the laptop.

The third method, which isn’t very popular anymore due to the pandemic, is someone stopping you in the street and asking you to borrow your phone to make an emergency call. As soon as they get their hands on it, they launch Venmo and transfer money to their account. Until the owner realizes what happened, it’ll be already too late.

The fourth method involves compromising a person’s Venmo account - mostly through credential stuffing attacks - and the distribution of phishing messages to their peers. These messages are either sending the recipients to phishing sites or ask for an immediate money transfer by presenting a phony emergency.

If you are using Venmo, make sure that you have set up the two-factor authentication step, use a strong and also unique password on your account, and prefer to access the app/platform through a VPN tool that will encrypt your network traffic. Venmo is very convenient and a lot of fun, but one has to use it responsibly.

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