Venmo has changed the way we conduct a lot of our everyday financial transactions with its ease of use and minimal fees. But can you be scammed through Venmo? That’s the downside. As with other payment apps, you could fall victim to a scammer. The good news is that Venmo offers many safeguards to help keep your money safe.
“Venmo scams are also simple, but easier to stay ahead of,” said Monica Eaton, the founder of Chargebacks911, which helps to combat fraud. “Venmo offers several settings to go through before funds are sent. This includes using facial recognition or a PIN to even log in to the app. The last four digits of the recipient’s phone number may also be needed to complete a transaction.”
10 Common Venmo Scams
Here’s a look at 10 common Venmo scams and how to protect yourself against them.
1. The Money Transfer Scam
You receive a notification on your Venmo account that you’ve received $100 you weren’t expecting. Upon investigation, you see it’s from a name that isn’t familiar to you. Seconds later, you receive a message from the sender, who says the money was sent to you mistakenly and asks you to return the cash.
Sure, you’ll send back that momentary windfall, you say, and proceed to authorize a $100 transfer from your funds. Here’s the problem, though. The scammer probably used a stolen credit card to fund the initial transaction but has the money you’re sending back programmed to go to the scammer’s legitimate account. So you’ve sent the money to the scammer, and not to the owner of the credit card.
When the owner files a fraud claim, Venmo will take the money from your account. If you send a transfer as requested, you’ll be out the $100 sent to you and your $100 reimbursement.
2. The Friend Scam
You’ve known Mary for years, and she’s a trusted friend. Of course you want to help her when she sends you a Venmo payment request with a note saying she’s in a financial bind and asking if she can borrow $150 until payday next week. You send her the cash right away. You know she’s good for the money.
But you might not have transferred the money to Mary. Instead, a scammer could have taken information from Mary’s public profile and copied it onto a scam account. You just sent $150 to Fake Mary.
3. The Money Multiplier Scam
Remember the old chain letter where if you send $1 to the top name on the list, you’ll eventually receive letters containing a dollar from hundreds of people? The modern-day version of the chain letter is a Venmo scam.
A scammer could assure you that if you send $100 today to a Venmo account, then by next week, you’ll have $1,000 back. It’s more than likely a kind of pyramid scheme, and not only will you not receive that grand in return, but you’re also out your initial payout.
4. The Romance Scam
Maybe you’ve struck up an online relationship with someone you’re finally ready to meet in person. Your suitor wants to come visit but just can’t come up with all the money for the plane ticket and asks you to pay half, promising to pay you back. You send that needed $250 via Venmo — and never hear from that person again.
While it’s tough when it comes to matters of the heart, Venmo reminds customers not to lend money to people you don’t know. In the case of the romance scam, “know” can be interpreted as a long-term relationship with a friend or family member you’ve met and share mutual friends or family with — not someone you’ve met online.
5. The Emergency Call Scam
What if you were approached in a grocery store parking lot by a young mom pushing a baby in a stroller who asks to borrow your phone because hers is out of charge and she needs to contact the person who is picking them up? You’d probably hand it over.
The call that woman made could have been legitimate. Or, she might not have been talking to anyone, instead talking into the air while using your phone to transfer money from your Venmo app while you were playing with the baby.
6. The Donation Scam
Following a natural disaster or another highly publicized event, you might be inclined to donate to assist those impacted. That’s a great idea — as long as you know the recipient is legitimate with a real Venmo account.
Scammers could play on your sympathies and use social media to advertise a way to send money to help via Venmo. Reader’s Digest wrote about one such Venmo account that was created — falsely — in the name of a nonprofit organization in Minnesota. The scammer’s account was created as a place for people to send donations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, but the organization wasn’t collecting money for that cause or tied to the Venmo account at all.
Before following a link and donating money via Venmo, research the legitimacy of the organization. If it strikes you as suspicious, don’t donate.
7. The Official Scam
You undoubtedly have received an email that purportedly came from a company claiming, for example, that your account will be closed if you don’t update it right away.
If you get such an email that claims to be from an “official” Venmo account, it probably isn’t. It’s more likely a phishing attack — or “smishing” if it comes via text — when a scammer tries to get you to give up some personal information that can be used to steal your personal identity.
It’s unadvisable to click any links or offer up any information. Look closely at the email and you might find the address ends in “@gmail.com.” Venmo would not use a Gmail account to contact you, so that would be your first hint something isn’t right. Contact Venmo’s customer service with questions.
8. The Prize Scam
This is yet another phishing scam in which you receive an email giving you the good news that you’re a recipient of a prize and, say, $1,000 that will be deposited to your Venmo account. Excited about your windfall, you follow the instructions in the email that ask you to provide information about your account.
That’s a giant red flag. Venmo cautions account holders never to give login information unless they are signing in to the Venmo app or on Venmo.com.
9. The Rental Scam
You found a listing for the condo of your dreams. It’s beautiful, in a great location, and available at an affordable price — and you know it’s not going to last long. The ad says you can put a hold on it just by sending a deposit via Venmo.
You’re OK with that because you’ve seen all these fabulous photos and know you want it. Here’s the bad news: Those photos probably were pilfered from a real estate website and are for a condo across the country. And one that isn’t even available in that faraway city anymore, either. And a scammer now has your money via Venmo.
10. The Buying Scam
If you’re buying something — a designer handbag, for example — that you saw advertised on a website, Venmo is a convenient way to pay. But be wary. The scammer might offer fake receipts as proof of shipping the handbag and ask you to send the money by Venmo. Don’t be surprised if the handbag never arrives. There probably wasn’t a handbag for sale to begin with.
These are only a few examples of tricks scammers will try on Venmo to steal your money. Be wary, never send money or give your information to someone you don’t know, and if you think you’ve been scammed, reach out to Venmo’s customer support.
- Will Venmo refund your money if you're scammed?
- Not according to its website, which states it isn't possible to cancel a payment to a Venmo account. A payment only can be reversed if three conditions are met, and that includes if the recipient "gives their explicit permission." Will a scammer do that? No.
- When you signed up for Venmo, you could have linked your bank account, credit card or debit card to make your financial transfers. Since the Venmo app runs through your banks, your first line of defense is to call your bank, Eaton said. "Because payments end up going through banks, it will take time to be processed and cleared."
- Venmo itself doesn't get involved in resolving financial issues unless they involve the Venmo purchase program.
- Can someone steal your bank info from Venmo?
- Yes, but you generally can stop it before it happens. You might receive an email or a text purporting to be from Venmo to inform you that there is a problem with your account, for example. You might be asked to click a link to confirm your personal and financial information — and you might be told you must do it urgently. It's another form of a phishing scam, however, that is looking for you to part with bank information. Don't click the link. Instead, contact Venmo's customer service.
- Can someone hack my Venmo account by sending me money?
- Yes, but again, only if you participate. You might receive a message informing you that you've won a drawing or sweepstakes or some other prize and instructing you to "click here" to claim the reward, then provide the information being asked for. Don't ever share your Venmo account information, such as your login or password, with anyone. If you never entered a contest, and if you have even the smallest suspicion, contact Venmo's customer service.
- According to Forbes Advisor, Venmo is considered a safe way to send and receive money. It uses encryption to protect your information and has ways to boost your security. As with all apps designed to move money, however, it's important to read the Venmo user agreement before signing up for the service to know exactly what to expect.
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- Kaspersky. "What is Smishing and How to Defend Against it?"
- Norton. 2022. "Venmo scams: How to protect yourself."
- Aura. 2023. "How To Avoid the 14 Latest Venmo Scams [2023 Update]."
- Reader's Digest. 2022. "How to Spot Fake Donation Scams."