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Don’t return money someone accidentally sends you on Venmo

Don’t return money someone accidentally sends you on Venmo

Photo: Michael Vi (Shutterstock)

Photo: Michael Vi (Shutterstock)

Venmo is an easy way to send money back and forth to friends, family, and the guy who runs the office fantasy football league. But what if you received a Venmo notification that says you wanted received money from someone you don’t know and that you didn’t expect? Chances are it’s not an accident or a fluke: It’s a scam.

The practice of sending money “accidentally” – and then asking for it back in apologetic and slightly frantic tones – is a scam that has been making the rounds not only on Venmo, but other similar payment apps such as Zelle, PayPal or Apple Pay. It is a scam that preys on people’s kindness and credulity.

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How does the “accidental” money sending scam work?

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), fraudsters purchase stolen credit cards from the dark web and link them to their payment app of choice. They then start sending random people money by “accident” and continue to message them asking for the money back, saying it was sent by mistake. The fraudsters switch the stolen credit cards from the payment apps and link their own personal cards instead, waiting for the victims to send them “clean” (non-stolen) money back.

If you are part of the group that sent money back, you didn’t actually send them the same, say $500 from the stolen credit cards back to them. The money you send is from your accounting. Finally, the payment apps will catch the stolen credit card fraud because the original owners of the cards from the dark web will report their cards stolen – and they are backed by their bank. The stolen funds will eventually be removed from your account (because that’s where it ended up), leaving you $500 poorer and the scammer $500 richer.

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Unlike credit cards, many digital payment apps do not take responsibility for fraud. That responsibility is left to you. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, most of this fraudulent process is automated, so scammers make a lot of money with very little effort.

What should you do and not What to do if someone sends you money by “accident”?

Never send money back to someone you don’t know on any payment app, unless it’s a friend or family member you know or your payment app offers fraudulent security like PayPal goods and services. If someone really sent you money by mistake, they can contact the payment app and dispute it. But leave the money in question in your account with the expectation that it will eventually be removed. You don’t have to worry about your account being hacked or vulnerable just because someone sent you or asked for money from you. What you can is to contact the payment app’s support team and they should be able to reverse the payment sent to you without the risk of being scammed.

The following are the BBB’s recommendations on how to protect yourself from payment app fraud:

What should you do if you sent money back to a scammer?

If you sent money to a scammer, there’s almost no way to get it back unless you had your credit card linked to your payment app. If so, you can contact your bank and let them know that it was a fraudulent transaction and they should be able to help you.

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