The 10 Top Venmo Scams of 2020 (and How to Avoid Them)

Stay away from these devious Venmo scams

Venmo is a peer-to-peer money transfer app that allows you to easily send and receive money from friends and family. Since the app is primarily meant for use between close acquaintances, it lacks important fraud protections. Venmo scams take advantage of this weakness to launder money, take payments for fake transactions, effectively steal merchandise by reversing payments, and other nefarious actions.

You can avoid most Venmo scams by only using the app to send and receive money from close acquaintances, and only making Venmo purchases at legitimate businesses. Venmo is safe to use, but only if you're careful.

01
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The Venmo Stolen Credit Card Scam

A man enters a credit card into a phone.

Karl Tapales / Moment / Getty 

There are a lot of Venmo scams that rely on stolen credit cards, but the most common one targets people who are trying to sell things through online marketplaces like Craigslist. In this scam, the scammer will respond to your listing and ask to pay with Venmo.

As the scam progresses, the scammer will pay with Venmo and either come pick up the item or wait for you to send it. At this point, it will seem like there were no problems with the transaction.

Later on, when the credit card is reported stolen, Venmo will reverse the payment. They will simply take the money out of your account if it's still there, or you will have to pay it back if you've already transferred it elsewhere.

Since the Venmo terms of service prohibit accepting payment for goods or services, you'll be left without the item you sold or your money.

02
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Venmo Text Phishing Scams

The Venmo phishing scam on an iPhone.

Venmo text phishing scams involve the scammer sending you a text message that looks like it came from Venmo. The scammer will usually provide a link and ask you to follow it and enter some information to verify your account. In some cases, they may warn you that your account will be closed if you don't comply.

If you fall for this scam, you'll end up providing sensitive information like your social security number and Venmo login details to the scammer. This can lead to identity theft, and it can also compromise your Venmo account.

After falling for this scam, you should take the necessary steps to protect yourself from identity theft. You will also need to change your Venmo password before the scammer can steal your account. In the event that your account is stolen, contact Venmo and report the incident.

03
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The In-Person Funds Transfer Scam

A person hands their phone to a stranger.

SDI Productions / E+ / Getty 

This in-person con starts with a stranger approaching you on the street. They say that their phone battery is dead, or that they've lost their phone, and they need to make an emergency call.

If you unlock your phone and give it to the scammer, they will typically pretend to make a call, say that the person isn't answering, and then ask if they can send a text. If you say yes, they will instead open your Venmo app and transfer your money to their own account. They may even delete the app afterward to prevent it from sending alerts about the transaction.

You can report this scam to Venmo if it happens to you, and even file a police report, but you're unlikely to get your money back.

Never give your phone to a stranger, and require a password or thumbprint for transactions like sending money through Venmo, and you can avoid this type of scam.

If you ever meet someone who seems to be in genuine distress, consider offering to make the call for them, or providing some other type of help. If they deny any such offers, they were probably trying to scam you.

04
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The Hacked Venmo Account Scam

A hacker uses stolen accounts to send fake payments.

South_agency / E+ / Getty

 

This scam involves an online sale where the scammer is the buyer. The scammer steals a third party's Venmo account and uses it to make the purchase. Later, when the third party realizes their Venmo account was hacked, Venmo reverses the transaction as fraudulent.

If you find yourself targeted by this scam, you end up without the item you sold, and without any money either.

05
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The Fake Venmo Sale Scam

A Venmo fake sale scam ad.

In this scam, the scammer claims to be selling something, often through Craigslist or another online marketplace. They request upfront payment, or a significant deposit, through Venmo. After you pay the deposit, the scammer breaks off all contact, and you are left without your money or the item you were trying to buy.

Since Venmo is designed for use between friends, and not for buying or selling merchandise, scammers are able to pull this type of scam off with little fear of repercussion.

Reporting the scammer to Venmo is unlikely to help, as you have broken their terms of service by trying to use Venmo to buy something from a stranger.

06
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The Reversed Venmo Transaction Scam

A scammer tries to buy something with Venmo to reverse the charge.

In this scam, the scammer looks for online sellers who will accept payment through Venmo. For example, you might be selling something through Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, and the scammer contacts you asking if they can pay through Venmo.

After the scammer pays you, and they receive their merchandise, they reverse the transaction. Since Venmo has no built-in fraud protection, and you're not supposed to use it to sell things to strangers, you will be unable to get your money or merchandise back.

07
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The Bluetooth Venmo Hack

A scammer attempts to hack a phone via Bluetooth.

francesco / Moment / Getty

This is a tricky one, because you may never even know that you came into contact with the scammer. They use your phone's Bluetooth connection to hack into your phone, and then use your Venmo app to transfer money to their own account.

To avoid becoming a victim, avoid using the feature that prevents your phone from locking when connected to a Bluetooth device. Also make sure to set additional protections, like requiring a password or fingerprint to unlock the phone, and requiring a password or fingerprint to initiate transactions like sending money through Venmo.

If this does happen to you, contact Venmo, tell them you were hacked, and try to cancel the payment. If you have a credit card linked instead of a bank account, contact your credit card company, as you may have additional protections.

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The Venmo Charge Scam

A screenshot of the Venmo charge scam.

This scam starts with someone sending money to your Venmo account without any warning. The person will then add a comment that the payment was accidental. Then they will send a charge through Venmo for the exact amount of money that they claim to have accidentally sent you.

If you accept the charge and pay the stranger, they will respond by canceling the original payment. At that point they have their original money, they have your money, and you are left with little recourse.

If this happens to you, report the transaction to Venmo. Don't send any money to the scammer, and don't transfer the money they send you to your bank account.

09
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Mysterious Venmo Money Scam

A screenshot of the mysterious Venmo money scam.

In this scam, you open Venmo to find money that you can't account for. The scammer may contact you, as in the Venmo charge scam, or they may just wait to see what you do. If they do contact you, they will ask you to refund the money that they accidentally sent to you.

If this happens, you have a few options. You can send the money back to the scammer, you can transfer the money to your own bank account, or you can just wait and do nothing.

The scammer is hoping you send the money back, but they will have sent it using a stolen credit card, so it really won't hurt them if you do something else. If you do send the scammer the same amount of money that they originally send you, they will immediately reverse the original transaction.

At that point they have both your money and the money from the stolen credit card, and you're left with little recourse.

10
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The Stuck Venmo Balance Scam

A screenshot of the Venmo stuck money scam.

This is a money laundering scam that has a lot in common with some notorious bad check scams. It starts with someone asking for your Venmo account information. The scammer says they have money stuck in their account, and they want to send it to you. They offer to let you keep some of the money if you send the rest back to them.

In reality, the scammer will usually send you money from a stolen credit card. When the card is reported stolen, Venmo will reverse the transaction and take the money from your account. At the same time, the scammer will have your money with no way for you to get it back.

To avoid this scam, just remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don't reply to anyone who makes this type of request, and immediately report them to Venmo if they send the money anyway.