Venmo scam uses texts to get bank card numbers and personal info, police warn

Massachusetts police are warning of a Venmo scam that’s going around.

The popular phone app, which is a money transfer platform owned by PayPal, confirmed in an email Monday that the company is aware of the phishing scam. The app reached more than 40 million users earlier this year, with its payment volume “expected to hit $100 billion in 2019,” ABC News reported in April.

Police laid out the specifics of the scam in a Sunday Facebook post, which has been shared thousands of times.

“You will receive a text message telling you your Venmo account is about to be charged,” Dighton police wrote, adding that the texts say that “if you want to cancel the withdrawal, you need to log on and decline it.”

The scam offers users a place to log in with a phone number and password, “then asks you to verify who you are by entering the bankcard number and other personal/financial info.” An officer said that even though “the password I used was wrong, ... it had me continue on.”

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The colors and font the scammers use mimic those of the legitimate Venmo app, police warned.

“Do not use the pages provided by the text to enter into your account,” police said. Instead, users should go directly to the real app or to the company’s website.

Anyone who suspects he or she may have been hit by the scam should reach out to their financial institutions, police said.

A spokesperson for Venmo confirmed in an email to McClatchy news group on Monday that “this is a common phishing scam and one in which Venmo is taking all the necessary steps to protect our customers.” Venmo said the company “never sends our users emails requesting information (of) this nature.”

Those who think they are victims of a phishing scam can also reach out directly to Venmo or its parent company, PayPal.

“Whenever someone suspects they are the target of spam or a potential scam that may be, for example, posing as Venmo, they can contact, and our dedicated security team will review the information and take action if needed,” the company spokesperson said.

The company writes on its safety and security page that the app “is designed for payments between friends and people who trust each other. Avoid payments to people you don’t know, especially if it involves a sale for goods and services (like event tickets and Craigslist items). These payments are potentially high risk, and you could lose your money without getting what you paid for.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.