Free money? Nope, this mistaken payment is a con

better business bureauIf someone sends you money out of the blue, it’s probably an honest mistake, right? Not necessarily. If you use Venmo or another digital wallet, such as Zelle or Apple Pay, Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia (BBB) warns users to watch out for this high-tech twist on a classic con. BBB offers advice to protect yourself when using money transfer apps.

How the Scam Works

You get a message in Venmo that says, “Oops! Can you send that back?” You check your balance history and someone you don’t know just sent you several hundred dollars. Must have been a mistake! After all, it’s easy to mistype a username. You might think you are doing the right thing by returning the money, but don’t fall for it!

What’s happening here? Scammers connect stolen credit cards to Venmo and use them to transfer money to unsuspecting users. If you send the money back to the scammer, they will delete the stolen credit card from their account and add their own card in its place. Then, the money you are sending will go on to their personal card. Eventually, the stolen funds will be removed from your account and you will be out that money.

“This is a digital twist on the classic fake check scam,” says Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western Virginia. “It’s essential to enable additional security measures when using peer-to-peer payment systems. Link online accounts to a credit card instead of a banking or debit card for an added level of protection,” says Wheeler.

Tips to Avoid Digital Wallet Scams

Protect yourself when paying with a money transfer app by following this advice:

  • Use money transfers with friends. Protect yourself from scams by only using money transfer apps for their intended purpose — sending money to people you personally know.
  • If someone sends you money by mistake, ask them to cancel the transaction. The sender can request that the vendor cancel the transaction. If the person refuses, it’s probable a scam.
  • Enable additional security settings. Check your account settings to see if you can enable extra security measures, such as multi-factor authentication, requiring a PIN, or using fingerprint recognition.
  • Link your money transfer app to a credit card. As with many other purchases, using a credit card will help protect you if you don’t receive the goods or services you paid for. Linking to a debit card or directly to your bank account does not give you that added protection.

For More Information

Learn more about staying safe when using a peer-to-peer payment system like Zelle, Venmo, or Apple Pay in this BBB.org article.

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