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How do Venmo scams work, and how to avoid them

Cristina POPOV

April 15, 2024

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How do Venmo scams work, and how to avoid them

Venmo has become one of the most popular peer-to-peer payment apps, making it easy to split the cost of a meal, pay a friend back for concert tickets, or gift money. However, the convenience of Venmo has also made it a target for scammers looking to take advantage of unsuspecting users.

Did you know?

According to recent data, there were 62.8 million active users of Venmo in the US in 2023. This represents 22.3% of the total population, which means that more than one out of every five US consumers is a Venmo user.

A Venmo scam can take many forms, but it always involves people with Venmo accounts losing money. The common threads are strangers insisting on Venmo payment, requests from impersonators, lucrative-sounding incentives used as phishing lures, and high-pressure tactics.

Real Story

"I was a victim of an online fake cattery. They pretended to sell me a cat for $800. I paid someone on Venmo. I believe they are fake and do not have cats.

Dollars Lost: $800

Bakersfield, CA- 93308

Date Reported: March 26, 2024"

Source: bbb.org

Fraud and hacking tactics are constantly evolving. This article covers the most common scams people encounter and offers tips to help you stay protected.

14 Common Venmo scams you need to know about

1. Accidental Money Transfer Scam

  • A scammer sends you money from a stolen credit card, pretending it was accidental.
  • They ask you to send the money back to their Venmo account.
  • When Venmo discovers the original payment was fraudulent, they take the money back from your account, leaving you out of pocket.

2. Fake Buyer Scam

  • You sell an item online, and the "buyer" pays through Venmo.
  • After shipping the item, the scammer retracts the Venmo payment.
  • You lose both the item and the money.

3. Phishing/Smishing Scams

  • Scammers impersonate Venmo and send fake emails/texts with links to fake login pages.
  • If you enter your credentials, the scammer can access your Venmo account.

4. Identity Theft Scams

  • Scammer steals a friend's identity and Venmo account to request money from you.
  • Fraudsters obtain your personal information through data breaches or social engineering tactics. With basic details like your name, contact information, and other identifiers, they can impersonate you and trick your friends and connections into sending money.

Curious to know what the internet knows about you? What personal information has already leaked and could be used by scammers? Use Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection to find out.

5. "Stranger in the Street" Scam

  • A stranger asks to borrow your phone for an emergency.
  • They quickly open Venmo and send money to themselves from your account.

6. Romance Scams

  • Scammer establishes an online romantic relationship with you.
  • They then claim an emergency and ask you to send money through Venmo.

Related: Better single than scammed. How to spot and avoid fake profiles on dating apps

7. Paper Check Scams

  • Scammer sends you a bad check and asks you to send them a portion via Venmo first.
  • The check inevitably bounces after you've sent the money.

8. Overpayment Scams

  • Scammer overpays you and then asks you to refund the overpayment via Venmo.
  • The original overpayment is later reversed, leaving you out the refunded money.

9. Fake Investment/Crypto Scams

  • Scammers promise high returns if you send them money through Venmo to invest.
  • They keep the money and never invest or return any profits.

10. Job Onboarding Fee Scams

  • Scammers pose as employers and ask you to send an "onboarding fee" through Venmo.
  • After you pay, they cut off communication and keep the money.

11. Customer or Tech Support Scams

  • Scammer poses as Venmo customer support on the phone using techniques like vishing and number spoofing.
  • They may claim there's an issue with your account to trick you into giving up sensitive info or sending money.

Related: How To Spot and Avoid Tech Support Scams

12. Rental Deposit Scams

  • Scammer posts fake rental listings online.
  • They ask you to pay a deposit through Venmo to "reserve" the rental, often without allowing a viewing first.
  • Once you pay, they disappear.

13. Purchase Scams

  • Common when shopping online, especially around holidays.
  • Scammers list items on sites like eBay or Etsy but insist on Venmo payment outside the platform to avoid protections.
  • You pay but never receive the item.

14. Fake Prize/Reward Scams

  • You're notified you won money from Venmo, usually through a phishing email or text with a link.
  • The link aims to steal your Venmo login or account details.

How to Stay Safe When Using Venmo

Staying vigilant about securing your information, being cautious with money transfers, and never letting your guard down can help prevent you from falling victim to Venmo scams.

Follow these tips to protect yourself from scams:

  • Be wary of any unsolicited contact from strangers, even if they seem to have your personal information. This could still be a scammer tactic.
  • Use Venmo only for small transfers with close friends and family you know and trust. Avoid sending money to unfamiliar people.
  • Don't use Venmo to pay for goods or services from sellers or businesses. Instead, use credit cards or bank accounts that offer more fraud protection.
  • Never click on links in emails or texts, even if they appear to be from Venmo. This could be a phishing attempt to steal your login credentials.
  • If something seems suspicious, contact Venmo's customer service immediately to report it.
  • Never hand over your phone to strangers, as they could quickly transfer money from your Venmo account.
  • Keep your devices secure with updated software, strong passwords, and anti-virus protection to prevent account hacking.
  • Adjust Venmo privacy settings to block unsolicited contacts/payments.
  • Use Scamio to detect potential scams and scammers. Simply send Scamio any texts, messages, links, QR codes, or images you suspect may be scams. Scamio will analyze them and let you know if they are indeed fraudulent. If they are, you can then report the fraud attempts to help warn others and get those scammers blocked from the platform.

If You're a Victim of a Venmo Scam

Being scammed on Venmo can be a frustrating experience. If you find yourself the target of fraudulent Venmo activity, here are the steps you should take:

1. Notify Venmo Right Away

Contact Venmo's customer support team as soon as possible to report the scam. Provide them much detail as you can, including screenshots or evidence of the scammer's profile and communication, if available. The sooner Venmo is aware, the better their chance of tracking the scammer.

2. Change Your Password

Immediately update your Venmo password to a new, secure password. This prevents the scammer from maintaining access to your account and protects against further unauthorized activity.

3. File a Report with Authorities

Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through their online complaint system. While the FTC may not be able to recover your money directly, your report can assist in broader investigations into Venmo fraud rings that often operate across multiple victims.

4. Alert Your Bank

If the scammer obtained any of your banking login credentials or credit/debit card information, contact your bank or credit card company immediately. Explain the situation and request that compromised accounts be frozen or deactivated to prevent further unauthorized access or charges.

5. Monitor Your Statements

Keep a close eye on your Venmo account, bank statements, and credit reports in the following weeks and months. Promptly report any other signs of fraud or identity theft that may arise from the scammer having access to your personal information.

Taking these steps quickly can help minimize further damage and increase the chances of tracking down the scammer.

FAQ about Venmo scams

Will Venmo refund my money if I get scammed?

Unfortunately, in most cases, Venmo will not provide a refund if you fall victim to a scam. Venmo's policies generally don't cover refunds for payments sent between individual users, even in cases of fraud or mistakes. It's considered a payment between friends that Venmo does not mediate. Your best recourse is to contact your bank or credit card company about unauthorized Venmo charges.

Can I cancel a Venmo payment I sent to the wrong person?

No, once a Venmo payment is sent to a recipient, it cannot be canceled or reversed from your end. If you paid someone accidentally, your only option is to ask them to send the money back to you. It's advisable to double-check payment details before sending them to avoid these mistakes.

What should I do if I see an unauthorized charge on my Venmo account?

If you notice any suspicious or unauthorized activity on your Venmo account, report it to Venmo's support team immediately through their contact form or chat on the app. Provide all details and evidence you can. You should also change your Venmo password immediately to prevent further unauthorized access. For specific charges on a Venmo credit card, you'll need to contact the card issuer directly about freezing the card.



Cristina POPOV

Cristina is a freelance writer and a mother of two living in Denmark. Her 15 years experience in communication includes developing content for tv, online, mobile apps, and a chatbot.

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