PanamaTimes

Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Did someone 'accidentally' send you money on Venmo? You might be getting scammed

Did someone 'accidentally' send you money on Venmo? You might be getting scammed

I was still in the hazy just-past-newborn phase with my son when someone sent me $500. Between diaper changes and endless bounce sessions on the yoga ball, I got a push notification on my phone.

"Anna sent you $500.00 - Antique table - You now have $500.00 in your Venmo account."

Free money! Like most new parents, I had plenty of ideas for how to budget an unexpected $500. (Venmo, a digital wallet app owned by Paypal, took a seller transaction fee of 1.9% plus another 10 cents, so my $500 was actually $490.40.) But I had neither possessed nor sold an antique table. I was running on minimal sleep, but my scam sense was tingling. Anna had sent me the money by accident — or had she? Wouldn't you double-check someone's phone number before sending them that much money?

It might have been an honest mistake. I sure would hate to be out that much because I mistyped a digit. I looked into it, and found a Better Business Bureau warning about this "money sent by accident" scam from 2020.

I looked up Venmo's FAQs on what to do. To my surprise, Venmo said I could "simply send the payment back to that user." (Venmo has since updated its guidance: The page says to contact Venmo support if you receive money from someone you don't know.)


How the scam works


Sorin Mihailovici, the editor-in-chief of Scam Detector, said if I'd sent the money back, I might have found myself out $500.

He explained: The scammer steals credit card numbers — which can be purchased in bulk on the dark web — and attaches those cards to accounts on digital wallet apps like Venmo, Cashapp and Zelle. Then, they "accidentally" send money to hundreds or thousands of people at once, whose phone numbers were similarly acquired in some back-alley of the internet. A subsequent request to get the money back goes out to all the targets. Some of those people will ignore it, but others will send the money back.

Software can automate the entire process, Mihailovici said, so even if only 1% of the scam targets send money back to them, "it's an incredible money-making machine with extremely, extremely little effort."

The first victims, whose credit card numbers were stolen, will see the charges and get in touch with their banks, who will likely reverse the charges. So they get their money back.

But you might not.

In its support documentation on payments from strangers, Venmo notes that when you send money back, it will come from your Venmo balance, unless the amount requested is larger than your Venmo balance. Because the seller fee had been taken out, my balance was $490.40, remember?So if I'd sent Anna back a full $500, according to Venmo, it would have been funded entirely by my outside payment method, AKA my credit card or bank account.

If the first transaction was subsequently reversed, I would have had to take it up with my bank to try and get my money back — which only ends up being successful for less than 14% of scam victims on Venmo, said Steve McFarland, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.

Think of it this way: If someone handed you an envelope full of cash and said, "Hey, here's the money I owe you for the antique table!" and then left and a minute later came back and said, "Never mind, you're not the right person," you would hand them back the same stack of bills. But that's not exactly how it works with digital payments. A scammer sends you $500, but if the charge is reversed, that initial $500 is clawed back. The money you sent "back" is a different $500. It's your $500.

So it'd be like someone handing you that envelope, then when they came back, you gave them a different set of bills from your wallet. Then a minute later, someone else came along and said, "That's my envelope of cash, someone stole it from me" and took it back.

Mihailovici said Venmo is not the only app where this scam takes place, but because it's so popular, scammers can find the most targets there. And even the updated guidance from Venmo is contradictory in places, he said: On the "payment from a stranger" page, it tells you to contact support if you get an unexpected payment; but on the "cancel a payment" page, it says if you send someone money by accident, you should ask them to send it back to you.

Venmo declined to make anyone available for an interview for this story. A company spokesperson emailed this statement: "The safety and privacy of all Venmo customers and their information has always been a top company priority. When we become aware of scams, we proactively work with law enforcement agencies and industry partners, and use our own systems to mitigate the issue. We encourage customers who suspect they are the target of a scam or have had an unauthorized transaction to contact Customer Service directly."

What should you do if someone sends you money by accident?


"Absolutely do not refund them," McFarland said.


I decided to let the money sit in my Venmo balance. Anna could work it out with Venmo or her bank if she'd really sent it by accident.

A couple days later, I got spammed with requests to send back the $500. Again, I did nothing. I confess I felt my heartstrings tug a little bit: What if Anna had really sent the money by accident, and really needed it back? But I didn't feel bad enough to potentially lose $500.

I left the money in my Venmo account, and a week after it was sent to me, a payment refund for $500 went through and took the money from my Venmo balance . Venmo issued me a credit for the seller transaction fee, so I never lost any money.

I guess I'll never know whether Anna was a scammer or someone who made an honest mistake. If it's the latter, I do hope she worked it out and is enjoying her table.

This particular scam is in part due to an issue with Venmo's user interface: There is no way to manually decline, refuse or cancel a payment. So if you get a payment you didn't expect from a stranger, the safest thing to do is to let it sit in your Venmo account. But if it's from someone you know — say they accidentally sent you their share of the rent instead of their roommate with the same first name — the right thing to do is to send it back to them.

"Money sent by accident" is not the Better Business Bureau's most complained-about scam, McFarland said. Most of the reports he sees are buyer/seller disputes: The buyer uses a digital wallet app to make a payment, and the seller doesn't deliver the item as promised. It used to be that senior citizens were the most common scam victims, he said, but in the last two to three years, that has shifted: It's now millennials and people just above and below that cohort who are the most likely to fall prey to scams.

Why? "They're on the internet," McFarland said.

And millennials "don't research as much" before they make a purchase online from somewhere like Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook Marketplace, McFarland said. "They said 'yes' very quickly, as they hover over their phone, talking with their friends, doing this and doing that and multiple apps at the same time, and don't have the time to investigate certain purchases and deals, and hoping that the stuff shows up at their door. And they're getting scammed."


What if you send money to the wrong person?


What if you're the Anna in this scenario? You can try to contact customer support for the app you used, or dispute the payment with your bank or credit card, and you might be successful. Or you might not.

"There's pretty much nothing you can do," Mihailovichi said. He compared it to leaving money on the table in a coffee shop and then coming back later in the day. That money's probably gone. In the case of a mistaken payment, you can certainly take Venmo's advice and request it back. You'll just have to hope the other person is kind and understanding — and that they didn't read this article.

Newsletter

Related Articles

PanamaTimes
0:00
0:00
Close
Apple warns against drying iPhones with rice
In a recent High Court hearing, the U.S. argued that Julian Assange endangered lives by releasing classified information.
Global Law Enforcement Dismantles Lockbit Ransomware Operation
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the Arctic prison colony
The President of Argentina Javier Mile does not fly private, he flies commercial, with the citizens he represents. And they LOVE him for it.
Bitcoin Reaches $50,000 for First Time in Over Two Years
Belo Horizonte: Brazil's Rising Carnival Hotspot for 2024
In El Salvador, the 'Trump of Latin America' stuns the world with a speech slamming woke policing after winning a landslide election
Tucker’s interview with Putin is over 50M views on X within the first 5 hours.
Finnish Airline, Finnair, is voluntarily weighing passengers to better estimate flight cargo weight
President Nayib Bukele has proudly announced El Salvador's remarkable achievement of becoming the safest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Former Chilean President Sebastian Piñera Dies in Helicopter Crash
This farmer seems to understand science a bit more than the event organizer, Klaus Schwab.
Facebook turns 20: From Mark Zuckerberg's dormitory to a $1trn company
The Coolest Dictator in the World" on the Path to Victory in El Salvador
Macron, France and fake news
Indian-Origin Man 'King' Arrested For Smuggling $16 Million Drugs Into US
Can someone teach Americans that not every person with slanted eyes is Chinese?
Europe's Farmers Feeding the People, Protesting Against Politicians Who Do Nothing for Their Country and Serve Only Themselves at Taxpayers' Expense
Paris Restaurant That Inspired 'Ratatouille' Loses $1.6 Million Worth Of Wine
Brazilian Police Investigate Bolsonaro's Son for Alleged Illegal Spying
Police in Brazil Raid Residence of Bolsonaro Associate Over Allegations of Illegal Spying
Border Dispute Escalates as Texas Governor Vows Increased Razor Wire
OpenAI Enhances ChatGPT-4 Model, Potentially Addressing AI "Laziness" Issue
The NSA finally acknowledges spying on Americans by acquiring sensitive data
Report Reveals Toxic Telegram Group Generating X-Rated AI-Generated Fake Images of Taylor Swift
US Border Patrol States 'No Plans' to Remove Razor Wire Installed in Texas
Bitcoin Experiences Approximately 20% Decline in Value
Klaus Schwab recently appointed himself as the Earth's "trustee of the future."
DeSantis Drops Out, Endorses Trump.
Nikki Haley said former President Trump is "just not at the same level" of mental fitness as he was while president in 2016.
Residents of a southern Mexican town set the government palace on fire in response to the police killing of a young man
Samsung Launches AI-Driven Galaxy S24, Ushering in New Smartphone Era
Judge Questions SEC's Regulatory Overreach in Coinbase Lawsuit
The Ecuador prosecutor who was investigating the television studio attack, has been assassinated.
Is artificial intelligence the solution to cyber security threats?
Vivek Ramaswamy suspends his US election campaign and endorses Trump.
Viral Satire: A Staged Satirical Clip Mistaken as Real Footage from the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos
The AI Revolution in the Workforce: CEOs at Davos Predict Major Job Cuts in 2024
Ecuador Reports 178 Hostages in Prison Gang Standoff
The Startling Cuban Espionage Case That Has Rattled the US Government
Two Armed Men in Ecuador, Dressed as Batman and The Joker Storm the Streets.
Armed Gang Raids Ecuadorian TV Station Following State of Emergency Declaration
Anti-Democratic Canada: Journalist Arrested for Questioning Canadian Finance Minister on Support of Terrorist Group
Ecuador's 'Most-Wanted' Criminal Vanishes from Prison
Mexican Cartel Supplied Wi-Fi to Locals Under Threat of Fatal Consequences for Non-Compliance
Border Surge Leads to Over 11,000 Migrants Waiting in Northern Mexico
Outsider Candidates Triumph in Latin American Elections
As Argentina Goes to the Polls, Will the Proposal to Replace the Peso with the Dollar Secure Votes?
Fatal Shark Attack Claims Life of Boston Woman Paddleboarding Near Bahamas Resort, According to Police
×