The Cash App Scam: What It Is and How to Protect Yourself

The popular payment app is a target for a variety of swindles

Users of Cash App (formerly Square Cash) can send and receive money to friends and family free of charge using iPhone or Android smartphones. Where there's money, however, there are scammers. If you use Cash App, you might be their next target.

Cash App is a peer-to-peer payment app. You can send money digitally to others and use the associated debit card to shop or get cash from an ATM. Instead of using account numbers, the payment system identifies you by your email address, phone number or a unique process known as a $Cashtag.

What Is a Cash App Scam?

A conceptual illustration of a cash app scammer.
 Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi

There are several scams targeting Cash App users. Most involve purchases of fake products, but some are much more evolved and require elaborate planning. Here are some examples:

  • A Cash App customer had problems sending money to her son in the Navy. She called customer service using a number she found on Google. The supposed representative asked questions to validate her account, including her name and telephone number. When she was placed on hold, the scammer cleared her account of more than $4,000 in funds and never came back.
  • To drive awareness, Cash App held social media cash giveaway promotions called #CashAppFriday. Participants entered the sweepstakes using social media accounts to comment or retweet the company's posts. Scammers pounced by pretending to be officials from the payment app. They required the entrant to send small amounts of cash to them to verify entries or offered limited-time deals to flip small cash deposits into larger ones. The catch? They never delivered as promised and cashed out the small deposits.
  • Numerous scams involve 'pay first, then we'll send you the product' ploys. For example, a user reported he sent $200 for concert tickets to another Cash App user who then promptly disappeared. The tickets never materialized.

The scams vary, but the concept is the same: Impostors pose as legitimate employees or users of the app but wind up taking as much money as possible from victims.

How Does a Cash App Scam Work?

These scams work by luring people into either revealing sensitive information or convincing them to send cash to strangers for seemingly legitimate purposes.

How Do Cash App Scammer Find Victims?

Victims are usually people who don't thoroughly research the app to understand how it works or who believe that strangers are trustworthy.

These scammers rely on human emotion. They play on situations where people need more money than they have, where someone needs something they can't easily get elsewhere, or where people need actual help using the app and don't realize Cash App doesn't provide phone-based customer service.

The only legitimate way to contact Cash App representatives is through the email contact form on the official site. There are no phone numbers you can call to talk to someone; their site states that official emails will come from @square.com, @squareup.com or @cash.app.

How Do I Avoid Getting Involved in This Kind of Scam?

As with any payment app, it's important to know exactly who you're dealing with before you send someone cash, allow another person to place cash into your account, or discuss your account details.

Remember these tips, too:

  • Don't call any phone numbers listed for the app on Google.
  • No one representing Cash App will ever ask you for your login credentials or sign-in code over the phone, on social media, or in any other way. If someone asks for it, immediately end all communication with that person and report them to Cash App.
  • Use a $Cashtag instead of your phone number or email address.
  • Don't enter your $Cashtag or other identifying information into any website that is not the official Cash App application or website.
  • Never sign in to your account using an unsolicited sign in code that you received via email.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (Security Lock) on your account that requires a PIN or Touch ID to make payments or transfer money from your account.

I'm Already a Victim. What Should I Do?

If you've already been affected by the scam, the first thing to do is to reset your Cash App PIN and login information immediately. Then follow these steps:

  1. Notify Cash App that you have been scammed. A Cash App debit card should fall under the rule by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that states prepaid cards have the same protections as debit cards. This rule became effective April 1, 2019.

  2. Consider unlinking any bank accounts, direct deposits or other financial accounts or activities from your Cash App account. This includes any online accounts that you have set up to be paid automatically through your Cash App or other bank accounts, such as utility companies or other bills.

  3. Update passwords for all your online accounts. Sometimes, scammers use information stolen in a completely different breach and try usernames and passwords on as many accounts as possible. They know people reuse passwords and sometimes they hit the jackpot. A good password manager can help you stay safe, too.

  4. Consider implementing a security freeze on your credit reports and contacting any banks associated with your Cash App account.  Start monitoring your credit score by contacting the three major credit bureaus to request copies of your credit report. You can also ask them to place a "security freeze" on your reports to block scammers from using your information to obtain new loans or accounts in your name.

  5. Report the fraud to Internet Crime Complaint Center and, if appropriate, to other places that investigate internet crimes including fraud, malware, phishing, etc.

How Do I Avoid Being Targeted For This Type of Scam?

Vigilance is critical to avoiding online scams. Pay close attention any website you use and be sure it's not a scam site, for example. Scammers will use tactics like website spoofing and pharming scams to fool you, so take the time to check the details on every site you use.

Don't click links in emails, texts, or social media without being completely certain of who sent them to you and confirming that they are legitimate. Phishing scams arrive in your email inbox while smishing scams target you with texts on your phone.

Common sense is your best defense. Be wary of anyone asking for your bank account or other financial information, anyone who asks for your personal information when chatting on social media or in a messaging app, and never assume someone asking for your money is legitimate when you deal with them personally online. Instead, use legitimate sales sites that offer consumer protections to help you stay safe.