Protect yourself from payment app scams

It’s unfortunate, but inevitable, that scammers have become aware of how easy it can be to hack into P2P (peer to peer) payment platforms. These now include such mainstays as Venmo, Zelle, Google Pay, Facebook Payment, Cash App, and Apple Pay. Their popularity is due to the ease and convenience these platforms offer in making instantaneous checking account payments for business and pleasure. But their heavy use acts like bait to con artists.

The AARP and the National Consumers League are being inundated by complaints of P2P scams where innocent consumers are losing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars through bogus transactions.

Experts with innovative payment technology say that since money is transferred so easily into someone else’s account via P2P, such payment platforms are the perfect breeding ground for ambitious scammers. All a scammer really needs is the cell phone number or even just the email address of someone actively using a P2P, and they can gain access to an account in no time. Which is all the more reason why consumers need to be doubly careful and cautious guarding their pin numbers and passwords for such social media apps.

Scammers place adds on popular social media sites pretending to sell merchandise, including clothing, DVDs, and even vacation services — just to get consumers to give up enough personal information for them to access their P2P payment platforms and then drain them as quickly and as completely as possible. So it’s very important, say all the financial fraud experts, to always know your vendors and online stores — make sure they are legitimate and reliable. One of the biggest scam opportunities is when people try to buy knockoff merchandise online — when people get defrauded that way they are very hesitant to report it to the authorities, or even to their bank, because they realize they have engaged in something illegal and may be penalized for it themselves. Thieves just love it when their victims don’t want to report their crimes.

Banks are the first ones to admit that P2P is not the best way to shop online; they want consumers to know that the fraud protections that are in place for a traditional credit card and debit card don’t exist for P2P platforms like Venmo and Zelle — those platforms were created mainly for simple cash transfers from one bank account to another, not to buy puppy dogs online. Authorities say that if this one rule were followed to the letter the amount of P2P fraud would drop dramatically. Put another way, only use P2P payment platforms with friends, family, and trusted business associates to insure against fraud.

Another important rule to remember is this: Once the money has been sent from your account, you no longer have any control over it. None. Zilch. Nada. It’s gone, and there are no banking or government agencies that can get it back for you, no matter what. Consumers who remember that cardinal rule stand the best chance of never being scammed with their P2P payments. 

Last, but not least, change pin numbers on every P2P platform at least every four months — it may sound inconvenient, but it discourages the scamsters like nothing else can.