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Ever send money through an app like Venmo, CashApp, or Zelle? They make it easy to send money fast to friends or family. But what happens when it’s a scammer on the other end?

Once you link a payment app to your debit card, credit card, or bank account, you’ll be able to send money to your friend’s or family member’s account through the app (or with Zelle, from your bank account to theirs). Typically, you’re sending money to people you know. So how do scammers convince you to send them money, too?

Scammers often pretend to be a loved one who’s in trouble and asking for money to deal with an emergency. Or a scammer might say you won a prize or a sweepstakes but need to pay some fees to collect it.

In another scam involving Zelle — a bank-to-bank transfer app — scammers pose as your bank and tell you there’s a problem with your account. To “protect” your account, the scammer tells you step-by-step instructions to transfer money from your bank account into a new account in your name. But that new account really belongs to the scammer, so after you make the transfer, your money will be gone.

The truth is, sending money through a payment app is like sending cash — it’s very hard to get it back. Make sure you know who you’re sending money to when you use a payment app. If you’re not sure whether you’re dealing with a scammer, contact the person, bank, or business at a phone number you know to be real to ask if they sent you the request. And know that your bank will never contact you to tell you to transfer money or to ask for personal information or passcodes. Learn more at ftc.gov/phishing.

And don’t pay someone who insists that you can only pay with a gift card, cryptocurrency, payment app, or a wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. If you think you paid a scammer, report it to the payment app. Then report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Learn more at ftc.gov/paymentapps

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

anne
August 14, 2023

or when the app takes out money and puts it into a crpto account

James Young
August 14, 2023

how do an individual know what messages are for the one who gets the email from government officials, stressed out about all of this, trying to figure out what to do, I need help

KelcP0515
August 14, 2023

In reply to by James Young

Most official officers, whether bank or government are not going to ask you for any of your information. None of them are going to ask you to open an account over the phone, or walk you through sending money unless you are the one initiating the call. That website they share for scams has a lot of useful information. You can always hang up the phone, look up the phone number on the internet and call them back if you are unsure.

Dee Dee
August 14, 2023

In reply to by James Young

Don't use the payment apps, period. The banks tout them because it relieves the bank of liability. If you pay online, go directly to the creditor's trusted website in which you must log in. Your payment will debit your bank account within a few days. If fraud still results, which is unlikely, your bank must make it right. Payment apps often do not.

Angie
August 14, 2023

In reply to by James Young

James,
Typically you will only receive an email from the government AFTER they have contacted you by USPS mail. They usually correspond by mail only. I wouldn't trust an email. Hope this helps!

Hi
August 14, 2023

In reply to by James Young

Call your bank or whatever company they’re posing as. Don’t respond. Google the phone number or whatever they give you with the word scam. Most importantly, spend some time learning about fraud. Just remember, anyone contacting YOU for YOUR information is probably a fraudster. And never pay in gift cards.

Samuel H Nunnally Jr
August 14, 2023

Fantastic and Well Needed Information.
Thanks

Jim Fordell
August 14, 2023

Great note on the Cashapp craze! Thanks for all the positive things you do for consumers!

Doug Jedlicka
August 14, 2023

Keeping on top of the latest scams and scammers. Is a way of life at this present time . With the FTC Consumer Alerts.

Sue
August 14, 2023

I’m already feeling the pain from a scammer, it is a real thing. As soon as I get this straightened out I will cancel PayPal and
Venmo.

Vanessa
August 14, 2023

My mom got a call from her "nephew" asking for emergency cash. She "worriedly" asked if he's "Jim" and he said yes. Told him wrong answer and he should be ashamed of himself; then hung up.

Cookie
August 17, 2023

In reply to by Vanessa

Good for her! My dad lost about $5,000 with one of those scams, about 15 years ago. He got a call from someone pretending to be my son, who said his wife was in jail (completely believable 😀), and needed money to get her out. And after he sent the money, he ended up in the hospital with a stroke. When my son showed up, the truth came out. 😢 It wasn’t the first time, and he was a smart man. He just wanted to believe the best in people.

Walda Ruiz
August 14, 2023

Good advice, thanks!

Gold Rush Antiques
August 14, 2023

EFTs (electronic fund transfers) can also cause problems. Use extra caution when a service company (such as Xfinity, Dish, etc.) demands you handle your account "without paper". The only ones who benefit from EFTs are the receiving companies. Your bank transmits the amount you specify to the service companies bank. You have no guarantee that the money has been received, until you start getting reminder notices or threats to discontinue your service. Even though your bank provides you with a confirmation code, the service company can easily "lose" it. Companies that demand paperless or else (they'll charge you with a penalty fee), should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission. That's an unlawful practice.

Djp
November 09, 2023

In reply to by Gold Rush Antiques

What about companies like AT&T who will only offer their $10 discount for auto pay if through your bank versus a credit card?

The Rugrat
November 16, 2023

In reply to by Djp

I think you can use either a debit card or credit card for autopay with att. I use it every month and I have changed payment methods multiple times over the years. Varo, cashapp, chime, were all accepted. Everywhere Visa or Mastercard is accepted? 🤷🏼‍♀️Lol

Peter GB
August 14, 2023

The scammers are becoming more clever each day and work 24/7 trying to steal our Money. As a former Bank executive Ive seen some of the most elaborate scams so none of us are immune and must take a common sense approach like a simple verification or call.

April
August 14, 2023

Remember no one from the government will call you out of the blue. You usually get calls from them if you have some type of case you are working on. If you are trying to apply for social security or for welfare or need help with paying the IRS. And usually you set up an appointment time for them to call you. Otherwise you will never receive a call. They are too busy to call out of the blue. Anyone claiming to be an employee of the government and calls you because you need to fix something is a scammer. If you have an issue that they just found out about the will start a paper trail first and you should always call them first before you answer or set appointments for calls never use the number on the letter get the number yourself from their official website. Because scammers send letters too. Check and double check always never send money because the government won't ask you to send money over the phone or by mail. You will have an official account set up on their official website for making payments. But if nothing has changed regarding income it assets you will not all of a sudden incur a debt with them it doesn't work that way.

Nygaard Charmaine
August 16, 2023

Thank you 😊

Ann Jackson
August 21, 2023

I got scammed from someone who says they are calling from Comcast with promotion of 50% of your comcast bill for 2 years, no contract. For this promotion they have partnered with Target thus, I needed to get a Target gift card. The caller even told me what my Comcast bill was, that's why I thought it was really Comcast. I was scammed. I notified FTC, Target, my credit card company (I bought the gift card with my cc) and Comcast. I let them know it was an inside job because they knew how much my comcast bill was. I have tried for 2 WEEKS to notify Oakland PD and their phone lines STAY on busy. Once there was a recording saying their phones lines were out of order. Well, my CC company (American Express) refused to stop payment. Target refused any help. FTC responded with an email to let my know they got my complaint - and NOTHING else. Comcast told me who I should notify of the bad deed. And it stopped there. I even got 2 more calls from the scammer the next week. It's a cold cruel world. WAKE UP, people

Jane
September 05, 2023

In reply to by Ann Jackson

I have a few voicemails for the same scam. I know it’s a scam because I don’t have xfinity but that is why I never answer my phone if I don’t know the number it’s usually scammers.

Tony
September 06, 2023

My wife currently was working remote from home for 2 separate companies one of which actually paid for an LLC In her name from the state of New York (Atlantis Consulting ) she actually sat down and had a real live interview with this guy and everything she was supposedly to get paid on the 1st for the whole month salary that never happened ! Now the other company INOVIO sent her 1000$ to her PAYPAL account and asked her to buy BTC ! She brought it to my attention and upon further investigation of my own the money was sent on a woman’s name so we googled her name and come to find out this “Ted Maron” guy my wife’s supposed boss was trying to do the same thing to this other woman so now my wife has to provide all this information she has obtained via message apps and emails from both this bogus company’s to show paypal she wasn’t part of the scam thing is from what local law enforcement told us is that most of these scammers phish with there own Money so they can goan access to your accounts and clear you out

Mindy Johnston
October 11, 2023

It have never used a cash app ,zelle or venmo but I can download an app and not even have to sign in. Like cash app it's already been used.. I either am not connected to Internet or I am in a perimiter . I find everything I do is controlled. I cannot even talk to my kids and five miles down the road ,will give me different information so doing this I don't know why ,you won't get it .

Cynthia
November 01, 2023

I ordered online from AutoZone withcashapp. There was a 50$ charge made to someone I don't know and my order was cancelled without any notice to me. What should I do??

Mustafa Mbelenzi
November 02, 2023

Thanks for the information