11 Sneaky Venmo Scams Running Rampant Right Now

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Yaniv Masjedi

Organic Growth at Aura

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    There Are Villains on Venmo Trying to Steal Your Money

    Did you know that peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle have fraud rates three to four times higher than credit cards? [*

    Unfortunately, most victims of Venmo scams only find out about the risks after they’ve been scammed

    Take Erika Sargent-Grasso, for example. After she agreed to sell a $30 mirror online, the buyer sent her a $900 Venmo transfer “by accident.” But it was only after Erika returned the extra $870 that her bank discovered the buyer was really a scammer using a stolen credit card — leaving Erika responsible for the missing funds. 

    According to the 2021 Better Business Bureau (BBB) Online Purchase Scam Report, victims of Venmo scams lost an average of $700 [*] — the second highest in losses of all payment services.

    Thankfully, you can protect yourself from Venmo scams by knowing what to look out for. 

    In this guide, we’ll review the most common Venmo scams, how they work, and how you can protect yourself. 

    What Are Venmo Scams?

    Venmo scams are schemes that trick Venmo users into sending scammers money or personal information, such as bank accounts or Social Security numbers (SSN). 

    Why do scammers target Venmo users? 

    First, Venmo transfers appear almost instantly — but aren’t normally verified for a few days. This makes it harder for banks to catch scammers who are using stolen credit cards or bank accounts. If the real user files a credit card or fraud claim, the money sent to the scammer cannot be recovered.

    Second, Venmo is also more anonymous than other money transfer apps. Scammers can create fraudulent accounts or pose as legitimate users and request money. (That’s why Venmo suggests that you only use it for sending money to people you know.) 

    While there are many types of Venmo scams, they typically follow one of these patterns:  

    • Overpayment or mistake payment scams: A person “accidentally” sends you too much money for an online payment and asks for a refund. But in reality, they’ve used a stolen credit card or bank account to make the transfer. 
    • Impersonator scams: A person impersonates one of your friends and asks you to send them money. 
    • “Free” money scams: A fraudster sends you a message claiming you’ve won free money on Venmo and you need to provide your bank details to receive the money. 
    • Fake Venmo employee scams: You receive a phone call or email from someone claiming to work at Venmo who asks for your information to “help” you.

    Can You Get Your Money Back After Being Scammed on Venmo?

    If you send money to a stranger or get scammed on Venmo, you’re unlikely to get your money back. 

    Unlike credit or debit cards that have fraud protection and chargeback systems in place, Venmo treats your money more like cash. 

    Better business bureau online purchase scam report
    Source: Better Business Bureau Online Purchase Scams Report

    In fact, you’re more likely to recover stolen funds if you use a payment service like PayPal instead of Venmo. 

    However, this doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck if you get scammed. If you send a Venmo transfer to an authorized business, or mark a payment to a personal profile as a purchase, you may be covered by purchase protection [*].

    As with most online scams, prevention is always better than recovery. So, what Venmo scams should you be on the lookout for?

    Related: Zelle Scams and How Thieves Are Siphoning Away Your Money

    The 11 Latest Venmo Scams To Know

    1. “Mistake” money transfers
    2. Fake friends requesting help
    3. Scammers selling hard-to-find items
    4. Overpayment from online purchases
    5. Fake emails or texts claiming to be from Venmo
    6. Strangers who ask to use your phone
    7. “Money circle” investment scams
    8. Fake prizes and rewards
    9. Venmo tech support scams
    10. Job scams on Venmo
    11. Fake check scams

    Venmo scammers are always adapting their schemes. But if you see the warning signs of any of these Venmo scams, be careful. 

    1. “Mistake” money transfers

    The “mistake” money transfer looks harmless on the surface. A scammer sends you money on Venmo, then sends you a message claiming it was a “mistake” and asks for a refund.

    What’s really happening is that scammers sent you money with a stolen credit card. Then, before you refund them, they update their Venmo account with their own banking details. As a result, you refund them — not the stolen credit card. 

    When the real credit card owner reverses the charge, Venmo takes the money from your account, as Venmo doesn’t offer any built-in fraud protections. 

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Ignore any unexpected transfers — especially if senders ask you to refund them. Don’t reply to the scammers. Some targets have reported that the fraudulent transactions disappear on their own [*].
    • Don’t deposit mistaken transfers into your account, as you’ll be responsible for that amount when the real victim reports the fraud. 
    • If in doubt, contact Venmo and ask them to verify or possibly reverse the transaction. You can also block Venmo users who send unsolicited payments or requests.

    See the scam in action: After paying their rent over Venmo, one Reddit user reported that their landlord received a Venmo refund request from a fake account with the same name, claiming to have paid with the “wrong card.”

    2. Fake friends requesting help

    Con artists have introduced some classic impersonator scams to Venmo. In this one, fraudsters change their profile picture and information to impersonate someone you know. Then, they message you requesting money for an “urgent” matter — such as paying for medical treatment, lawyer fees, or something similar. 

    Example of a fake friend Venmo request scam
    Source: Venmo

    Scammers can find out enough about you to convince you to send them money just by looking at your social media profiles, public Venmo transactions, and online footprint

    In some cases, scammers may even hack your friend’s phone or account and use that  real profile to request money. But instead of the money going to a friend, it goes to the scammer.

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Use common sense. If the tone or language of the message seems out of character for your friend, trust your intuition.  
    • Contact any friends or family members who are asking for money unexpectedly to verify that they actually sent the request.
    • Keep your Venmo privacy settings updated so that your transactions are private and not shared in the public feed. 

    3. Scammers selling hard-to-find items

    Finding hard-to-get items like popular gaming consoles or concert tickets can be frustrating. You might be tempted to buy directly from a stranger instead of buying from an official online store or retailer.

    Unfortunately Venmo doesn’t offer you any type of fraud protection if these transactions go wrong — and scammers know it. 

    In these Venmo scams, fraudsters post in-demand products on platforms like Facebook Marketplace. When you reach out, they’ll insist that you use Venmo to make the purchase so they won’t have to pay a fee. But once you send them the money, the “seller” disappears along with the product that you thought you’d purchased. 

    Example of a scammer selling items on Venmo
    Source: Venmo

    In another version of this scam, a buyer will send you an email that looks like it’s showing an official Venmo payment. These emails will often claim that Venmo is holding the money until you upload the item’s shipping information. But this isn’t a feature that Venmo offers, and the whole email is part of the scam.

    Be aware that these scams can also happen when you sell items online. 

    A fraudster will fund their Venmo account using a stolen credit card to pay for your item. But once you ship it out, the fraud will be discovered and you’ll be required to pay back the stolen money — leaving you robbed of cash and the item you wanted to sell. 

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Don’t use Venmo for buying items from people online. If you don’t know them personally or can’t meet up in person to receive the item, you could get scammed. 
    • Only purchase from approved Venmo business accounts. These accounts will say “Eligible items covered by Purchase Protection” under the “Pay” button.
    • Make sure any email you get comes from an official “Venmo.com” email address. If it doesn’t, it’s a scam. 

    4. Overpayment for online purchases

    Overpayment scams are similar to mistaken money transfers. In this scam, fraudsters “accidentally” overpay for an item you have for sale. 

    Unfortunately, after you refund the “extra” amount, you discover that the initial payment was fake. So, now you’ve lost the money you sent because you never actually received the overpayment. 

    Furthermore, the initial payment was likely made with a stolen credit card, which leaves you responsible for the lost money.

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Don’t use Venmo to sell items to strangers — especially if you aren’t able to meet in person. 
    • Contact Venmo’s customer service if someone overpays you for an item. Let them know you’re afraid it’s part of a scam. Document the call, and include which customer service representative you’re talking to, the date, and time. 

    Pro tip: Sign up for a credit and transaction monitoring service. Aura monitors your bank and credit card accounts for signs of fraud and suspicious activity. This way, you can shut down scammers before they do too much damage. 

    Aura credit and transaction monitoring
    Source: Aura's transaction and credit monitoring

    5. Fake emails and texts claiming to be from Venmo (Phishing attacks)

    In a phishing attack, you’re sent emails from scammers claiming to be from legitimate businesses, including Venmo. 

    The scammers replicate as many details of an actual Venmo email as they can, such as Venmo’s colors, logo, and even a similar domain name (i.e. instead of joe@venmo.com, they might use joe@venma.com). 

    Example of a Venmo phishing email
    Source: Verified.org

    The email will request that you click on a link and verify your personal and financial information (which the scammers can use for identity theft or fraud). 

    Scammers will also use social engineering tactics to pressure you into acting quickly. For example, one scam message may claim that your Venmo accounts will be charged if you don’t click on the link in the text.

    A “smishing” attack is similar, except that you receive a fake text message instead of an email. The text message will appear legitimate, using cues to make you think it’s from Venmo. 

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Don’t click on links from emails or texts that claim to be from financial institutions or Venmo, as these are likely scams.
    • Contact the business that’s being impersonated in the scam to inform them, and then delete the email or text.
    • If you’re concerned your Venmo account will be closed or charged, don’t click on a link. Instead, call Venmo customer service.
    • Always check emails for signs of a phishing scam — e.g., the email doesn’t come from an official “Venmo.com” email address or includes strange links and attachments. 

    6. Strangers who ask to use your phone

    In this scam, fraudsters will approach you in public and ask to use your phone for an emergency. They’ll try calling someone and then claim the person they’re calling isn’t picking up, so they ask to send a text from your phone. But instead, they open your Venmo account and send transfers to themselves. 

    This exact scam happened to a Florida woman when a young boy claimed to be lost and asked to use her phone to call his parents [*]. 

    Even though the boy was just a few feet away from her, the woman didn’t see him open her Venmo app. But a few days later, she received a notification that two Venmo charges were approved — one for $1,800 and one for $2,000. 

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Don’t lend your phone to anyone you don’t know — even children. Instead, offer to contact someone for them, such as the police. Or, if children approach you about being lost, walk with them to a nearby shop or business where they can call and wait for their parents. 
    • Lock your Venmo account with a PIN or Touch ID. This way, only you should be able to access your account on your phone. 

    7. “Money circle” investment scams

    Scammers use common “get rich quick” schemes on Venmo to try and steal your money. In this scam, a fraudster — either a stranger or someone you know — asks you to send them a small amount of money on Venmo in return for a larger amount later (usually after you bring more people into the “circle”).

    Unfortunately, the money never appears and you’re out your initial investment. 

    Another version of this money circle scam occurs with gift cards. You send the scammer a small amount of money for a gift card. Then, the scammer promises to send you a much larger gift card. Only you never receive it. 

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Remember the golden rule of fraud prevention: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t trust any “investment” that guarantees a return. 
    • Only send money on Venmo to people you know and trust. 

    Related: The 14 Cash App Scams You Didn't Know About (Until Now)

    8. Fake prizes and rewards

    In this common Venmo scam, you receive an email or text claiming that you’ve won “free money” on Venmo. To receive it, all you have to do is click on a link and sign into your Venmo account. 

    But the link is fraudulent; and instead, you’ll be sent to a phishing site that steals your Venmo account and password. 

    Another version of this scam involves receiving an email or text that claims you’ll get a Venmo gift card for completing a survey. 

    Example of a fake Venmo survey scam
    Source: Venmo

    While sometimes businesses will offer you a gift card for answering survey questions, legitimate companies wouldn’t use Venmo to do this, as it doesn’t comply with their user agreement. 

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Be wary of any message that claims you’ve won a prize — especially if you never entered a contest. Delete these emails and ignore any texts. 
    • Check that any email comes from an official “Venmo.com” email address.
    • Never share your Venmo login or account information with anyone in a text message or email.  
    • If you’re unsure if an offer is legitimate, check by contacting Venmo’s customer support. 

    Related: 10 Text Message Scams You Didn't Know About (Until Now)

    9. Venmo tech support scams

    There are two variations of the Venmo tech support scam that you need to be aware of. 

    First, scammers may contact you and pretend to be from Venmo’s customer support team. They’ll claim there are “unauthorized” transactions on your account, and that you need to “verify” your account to keep it safe. 

    In reality, fraudsters are trying to steal your login information (password and 2FA code) to gain access to your account. 

    In another version of this scam, you call an unofficial number for a company’s technical support, but end up on the line with scammers instead. They’ll tell you that there are issues with your device or account and that you need to pay to upgrade to “premium” support. They’ll ask you to use Venmo to pay them before they can help you. 

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Never provide two-factor authentication (2FA) codes to anyone. Venmo’s support team will never ask for these.
    • When you need technical support, go to a company’s official website and find their phone number or contact information. Don’t just rely on what comes up when you Google their name and “customer support.” 
    • Don’t pay for tech support using Venmo. A legitimate business would either not ask for payment at all, or (if payment is required) have you pay by using methods designed for businesses.

    Related: The 7 Latest Geek Squad Scams (and How To Avoid Them)

    10. Job scams on Venmo

    Job scams all follow the same steps: 

    • Scammers post an ad for a job or reach out to you over social media.
    • They  “interview” you briefly via platforms such as Messenger, Telegram, or WhatsApp. This is because the scammer is usually operating out of another country; hopping on a phone or video call would be a dead giveaway that they are trying to scam you. 
    • Next, you receive a new job offer. You are then asked to pay a fee upfront for onboarding or setup — using Venmo.

    Sometimes, they might ask you to help transfer another employee’s money using your Venmo account, and you become an “accidental money mule.” 

    Regardless of the exact scenario, any of these cases will end with you still jobless — and with less money in your wallet.  

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Look for the warning signs of a job scam — for example, an offer that’s too good to be true, or an “employer” that will only contact you via platforms such as  Messenger or Whatsapp.
    • Don’t pay for “onboarding” or for new job materials unless you’re 100% sure that the job is legitimate. 

    11. Fake check scams

    Venmo scammers will sometimes reach out to you about an item you’re selling, and ask if they can send you a check. The check will often be for more than the asking price, and they’ll ask you to refund the “extra” money to their Venmo account. 

    When you first cash the check, it likely will clear your bank. But then later, it will bounce. You’ll end up having to pay your bank in addition to losing the money that you “refunded” the scammer.

    Don’t fall for this scam. Do this instead:

    • Never exchange a paper check for a Venmo payment. This is a clear red flag indicating a scam. 
    • Look for the warning signs of a bank scam when dealing with strangers on Venmo.

    Help! I Was Scammed on Venmo. What Should I Do?

    While Venmo makes it simple and convenient to send money to family and friends, it can leave you vulnerable to identity theft and fraud if you don’t take the proper precautions. 

     If you believe you have been scammed, stop all contact with the scammer. Then, follow these steps for the best chance of minimizing the damage and getting your money back: 

    • Report the scam to Venmo’s security support immediately. Here’s how to get in touch with Venmo about an unauthorized transaction: If you’ve received a fake Venmo email, you can forward it to phishing@venmo.com. If you receive a fake text, email a screenshot of the text to support@venmo.com. Then delete the email or text from your account.
    • Update your Venmo password (and any other compromised accounts). Choose a secure and unique password, and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on your account. You should also consider using a password manager to keep all of your accounts safe.
    • Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has resources for victims of fraud at IdentityTheft.gov. If you try to recover lost funds, you’ll most likely need an FTC report to do so. 
    • Contact your bank and let them know about the fraud. This step is especially important if the scammer has gained access to your bank information, SSN, or other personal information. 
    • Look for the warning signs of identity theft. Scammers can do serious damage if they gain access to your personal information. If your identity has also been compromised as part of the scam, follow the steps outlined in our identity theft recovery guide. For the most secure protection, consider an identity theft protection service like Aura.
    Aura identity theft protection
    Source: Aura identity theft protection

    How To Protect Yourself From Venmo Scams

    The best way to protect yourself from Venmo scams is to only exchange payments with people you trust and know personally. But if you need to use Venmo in other situations, you can still do so safely by following these tips:

    • Link your credit card to your Venmo account — not your bank account. In the event that something happens, it’s far easier to cancel a credit card (and file a chargeback) than try to recoup the damages from your bank. 
    • Update your privacy settings on Venmo so that all transactions are private. All of your friends don’t need to know that you sent your roommate $65 for the utility bill this month. 
    • If you receive unexpected requests or payments from people you know, contact them directly and confirm that they are the actual senders.
    • Block users who have sent you unsolicited payments or requests.
    • Don’t ship or give an item to the recipient before you’ve received payment and can confirm the transaction is legitimate.
    • Question offers that seem too good to be true because they are likely scams.
    • Don’t give your personal information to anyone, including people who claim to be from Venmo.
    • Don’t click on links or attachments in suspicious emails or texts.
    • Don’t let anyone use your phone.
    • Set up multi-factor authentication (2FA or MFA). This way, Venmo has to send you a code to verify a login on an unfamiliar device.
    • Use Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution to keep your identity, online accounts, and money safe from scammers. If the worst should happen, you’re covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft.

    The Bottom Line: Stay Safe on Venmo

    Venmo can be a convenient way of sending money to people you know. But when you use it for other purposes — like buying and selling items online — you put yourself at risk of scams. 

    Protect yourself and your money from Venmo scammers by being vigilant, double-checking every transfer, and never sending money to people you don’t know. And to keep your account and identity safe, sign up for Aura.

    Keep your money safe from scammers — try Aura free for 14 days.

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers