Sending money through apps like Venmo, CashApp, or Zelle has made paying friends and family fast and easy. Most of the time you are sending money to someone you know, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that scammers often convince people to send them money instead. By pretending to be a loved one in trouble, or saying you won a prize but need to pay a fee to collect it, they can convince people to send the funds to them instead.
Scammers often pretend to be an authority figure like a fake lawyer, police officer, or doctor. They use scare tactics to make it more believable.
The scammer will say it’s urgent, and also may say it is important to keep it a secret.
Scammers try to play on emotions and are counting on you to act quickly to help your friends or family.
If you get a call or a message about a family member or friend in need of money, the FTC recommends that you do the following:
- Resist the pressure to send money immediately and hang up or ignore the message.
- Call or message the family member or friend who is supposedly in trouble. Check if they are really in trouble.
- Tell someone in your family or circle of friends even if they said to keep it a secret.
Another tactic that scammers use involving Zelle is they will pose as your bank and tell you that there is a problem with your account. They will then give step-by-step instructions to transfer money into a new account to which they will then have access.
The FTC has a list of things to do if you are scammed including how to get your money back if you paid a scammer.
Sending money through a payment app is like sending cash, and very hard to get back. Make sure you know who you’re sending money to when you use a payment app. If you’re not sure whether you’re dealing with a scammer, contact the person, bank, or business at a phone number you know to be real to ask if they sent you the request. Your bank will never contact you to tell you to transfer money or to ask for personal information or passcodes.
It is also important to remember to verify the validity of anyone who insists you only pay using gift cards, cryptocurrency, payment apps or a wire transfer like Western Union or MoneyGram. If you believe you paid a scammer, report it to the payment app. Then report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.