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How to Spot and Avoid Common Payment App Scams

Payment apps and platforms like Venmo, Cash App and Zelle make it quick and easy to send and receive money online or through your smartphone. Simply link the payment service to your checking account, debit card or credit card, and you can pay others in real-time instead of having to carry cash or write checks. These payment options are especially convenient when it comes to small, everyday expenses like splitting bills, paying the babysitter or reimbursing friends for dinner!

Although payment app methods are generally safe to use for sending funds between family and friends, they can also open the door for scammers looking to steal your hard-earned money.

Stay alert and watch out for these common scams involving payment app platforms:

Phony online vendors

Beware of people who sell merchandise, event tickets and even pets online and only accept payment via a payment app service. After sending the funds, you may never hear from the seller again — or receive what you paid for.

Because payment app services offer limited fraud protection, it is almost impossible to recover your money. A good rule of thumb is to only exchange payments only with people you know and trust, never strangers.

Customer support imposters

Another way that scammers are taking advantage of unsuspecting payment app users is by posing as customer service representatives for the app or platform. You might receive an email, text or phone call claiming that your account has been hacked. Or, you might search online for help with your account and come across a fake support website or phone number that's actually a scammer looking to steal your personal or financial information.

Legitimate customer service teams won't ask for your login information, debit or credit card numbers, Social Security number or other security information. This is the sure sign of a scam!

“Accidental" payments

If you receive an unexpected payment from an unknown user, be suspicious — it's likely a scam. Fraudsters will use stolen credit cards to send funds to payment app users, then claim it was an accident and ask you to send the funds back. Don't fall for it! Because the original funds were stolen, the fraud victim could dispute the charge. Then, the money you send back to the scammer will come out of your own account. Instead, reach out to the payment service directly for help. 

Money mule scams

Steer clear of offers to get rich quick with a stay-at-home job, especially if your employer wants you to transfer funds to a “client" or “supplier" using a payment app. This is likely a money mule scam, where fraudsters use unsuspecting victims to move stolen money. Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Borrowed or stolen phone scam

In a more simple scam, fraudsters may ask to borrow your phone to send a text and then log in to your payment app to quickly transfer funds from your account to theirs. Likewise, if your phone is unattended, lost or stolen, it could give someone the opportunity to access your account.

To protect yourself from fraud, use strong passwords for all your accounts and set up a lock screen password for your smartphone. Some payment apps will allow you to set up two-factor authentication or fingerprint and facial recognition to add an extra layer of security to your accounts. It's also a good idea to keep your devices and apps up-to-date with the latest security updates to safeguard against hackers.

Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU) is here to help you stay informed, protect your personal and financial information an​​d avoid becoming a victim of fraud. For more helpful fraud prevention tips, tools and resources, visit