MADISON (WKOW) — If you’re splitting a lunch bill with friends or repaying family, Venmo can be a life saver. But, like other digital payment platforms, it can also be home to people trying to scam others out of money.
For Breanna Saunders, a resident of Wausau, a scam on Venmo impacted not only her, but also her best friend.
“Venmo is really convenient because you can send money instantly, but now, I’m kind of questioning if it’s the right decision,” Saunders said.
Saunders said it all happened about a week ago when someone impersonating her on Venmo requested $300 from her best friend.
The request said: “At the store. I left my wallet at home. I’ll send it back as soon as I get home. Please & Thank you? Appreciate it.”
Without thinking twice, Saunders said her best friend sent the money.
“For Heather, it was just: ‘Oh, my friend needs help,’ you know? She didn’t ask questions. That’s a true friend right there,” Saunders said.
After exchanging texts, the friends soon realized that Saunders was not the one who sent the request, and therefore, didn’t get the money.
“Looking at the Venmo name, it was the same picture, same username, but basically, the only difference was there was a dash between my first and last name when my real one had an underscore between my first and last name,” Saunders said.
Soon after, Saunders started seeing more friends post online about the same thing happening to them.
“The exact same message, the exact same cry for help and the exact same amount of money,” Saunders said.
To prevent yourself from falling victim to scams like this, Tiffany Bernhardt, Southwest Wisconsin Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau, recommends making your Venmo profile private.
“When you have the public feed turned on, anybody can see your transaction and it’s super easy for a scammer to develop a profile with a letter or a number that’s off,” Bernhardt said.
Bernhardt said another step people can take to protect themselves is linking a credit card, rather than a debit card to their Venmo account.
“It’s going to cost you a little bit more money–Venmo charges a 3% fee if you go ahead and use a credit card, but it’s going to give you additional protections that other forms of payment may not,” Bernhardt said.
Venmo also shared tips for avoiding scams. Those include:
- Looking at the profile of the person requesting money to confirm they are legit
- Reaching out to the person directly to confirm they made the request
- Utilizing Venmo codes in person to pay people directly
If you do fall victim to a scam on Venmo, you can report it to Venmo by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-(855)-812-4430.
The Better Business Bureau also takes reports of scams. You can make a report on their website.
“Your report is going to help warn others of the scams that are taking place in the marketplace,” Bernhardt said.