Carrying cash is sooo 2019. Payment apps such as Venmo and Cash App, are becoming more popular. and make it really easy to send money to anyone after splitting dinner or pitching in on a gift. While these apps are convenient and easy to use, they're also easy for scammers to use for their own profit. Here's how to avoid those traps.
There are several variations of the mobile payment app scam, most of which involve the scammer hijacking your linked checking account or credit card and using it to pay for their own purchases. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing our attitudes toward money, there is another, more nefarious scam being played out through mobile payment apps.
In this trending scam, you're invited to participate in a Twitter or other social media platform contest. The contest host is giving away a bundle of cash to one lucky winner as a way of helping them through the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. It all appears legitimate thanks to the use of hashtags such as #emergencyfunds
After entering the contest, you receive a message saying you've won — but you need to pay a small fee to verify your account and, later, receive their cash prize. Thrilled to be the winner and suspecting nothing unusual, you gladly pay the fee and wait for your big payday. Unfortunately, the money never lands in your account, and you won't see the funds you used to pay the fee ever again.
Think you'd never fall for that? We can assure you that many people can and do because these contests can appear legitimate.
What to Watch For
In one scenario, the contest you entered may actually be authentic, but the follow-up post you've received is the work of a scammer. Other times, you may not have entered any contest, but you receive a message appearing to be sent directly from the payment app, telling you that you've been randomly chosen to win a cash prize — with a small processing fee attached.
Some scammers take the ruse one step further. After asking you to send the fee via a mobile payment app, the scammer hacks your linked account or credit card and uses it to make expensive purchases.
Scams like this can be executed through several social media platforms, but is most commonly found on Twitter. The social media giant is a popular host for contests of this sort, and another cash giveaway hardly stands out. The "Retweet" culture on Twitter also makes it easy for scammers to pick up on a legitimate contest and choose a target.
Here's what you need to know about Cash App and other mobile payment apps:
- Cash App will never ask customers to send money as a "processing fee" or for "verification."
- Cash App will not ask users to share their PIN or sign-in code outside the app.
- Cash App currently has only two official Twitter accounts, @cashapp and @cashsupport, both of which have blue, verified check marks. If you receive a tweet from another account appearing to be from the app, it's likely bogus.
- If a post or tweet looks suspicious, don't take any chances; ignore it and move on.
If you believe you have fallen victim to a mobile payment app scam, contact the app's support through the app or website. If the scam is reported early enough, authorities may be able to reverse the transaction. You can also report the scam to the FTC at ftc.gov. Lastly, be sure to let your friends know about the circulating scam so they don't fall victim to it themselves.