P2P money transfer scams

More and more people are using popular P2P Instant Transfer Services such as Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App to quickly transfer funds to friends, family, or merchants. But the convenience comes with a risk. Do you really know who’s accepting (or even sending) your money?

Careful With Your (Digital) Cash


More and more people are using popular P2P Instant Transfer Services such as Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App to quickly transfer funds to friends, family, or merchants. P2P transfers can even be made through social media. But the convenience comes with a risk. Do you really know who’s accepting your money? You even need to be wary when receiving money.

Here are a few of the scams you might encounter involving these transfer services.


Impersonating Customer Support

  • You might get a text, phone call, or social media message claiming to be from customer support for one of your P2P services. They’ll ask you for your security information, such as PINs and sign-in codes. If you give this information, fraudsters can steal your funds.
  • They might also send you a link to a fake website that looks like a legitimate website for your P2P service.
  • Be wary of any request to send a payment, make a purchase, download applications for ‘remote access,’ or conduct a test transaction.



The Mystery Money scam


  • Money mysteriously appears in your P2P account, and then a fraudster messages you to say they “accidentally” sent you funds. They ask you to send the funds back as a favor.
  • However, the fraudster funded the transfer to you using a stolen debit or credit card. When the fraud is detected, your P2P service provider will debit the transfer amount from your account.
  • Legitimate errors should be addressed directly through the P2P service’s customer support channels.
  • If you transferred funds to the fraudster, you’ll be left with a loss. And, because you authorized the transfer of funds via P2P, which is essentially like giving someone cash, your financial institution will likely be unable to help you recover the lost funds.



The Payment for Goods scam


  • Another example involves fraudsters requiring payment by a P2P service for something they’re selling online.
  • The fraudster either never delivers the item purchased or sends a fraudulent one (event tickets are a common offering in this scam).
  • Again, because you essentially transferred cash, you will most likely not be able to dispute the transaction.



The Overpayment Scam

You need to be on your guard even when you're the seller, such as on Facebook Marketplace. Scammers will target those selling higher priced goods. While there are variations, this scam functions much like the Mystery Money scam.

  • A prospective 'buyer' offers to pay you through a P2P service such as Zelle or Venmo ahead of picking up the item. 
  • They will claim they sent it but got an alert from the P2P service about a problem; they will start to sound agitated in their message.
  • If you provided them an email address, such as one does normally to verify a new Venmo payment account, for example, you'll get a convincing-looking email supposedly from the P2P service.
  • This message will state the payment exceeds a threshold on your account, and that you need to have the buyer send an additional amount of several hundred dollars to upgrade your account to a business account.
  • The buyer will say they have no problem paying the additional amount, but they will ask if they can trust you to refund the extra amount right away.
  • If you do see funds come in and then transfer the 'overpayment' amount back to the buyer, you'll be out that amount when the initial payment is reversed by the P2P service as fraudulent.


Learn more about P2P scams.



How To Protect Your Personal Information

A common lesson of all scams is the importance of protecting your personal information. 

Stay secure online and over the phone:

  • Protect your PINS and Security questions.
    • Never share your login credentials for P2P services, even if the person claims to be from customer service.
  • Use strong passwords.
    •  Create passwords which are complex and unique from accounts held elsewhere. For example: instead of Pizza1, use P!zz@1
  • Keep it personal. 
    • When resetting or creating new passwords, do so from your own personal computer, smartphone, or tablet
  • Do not share sensitive information. 
    • Account numbers, debit or credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers should not be shared over the phone, through the mail, or online, unless you initiated the contact or know with whom you are dealing.

Safeguard your email accounts:

  • Be wise about Wi-Fi. 
    • Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in a coffee shop, library, airport, hotel, or other public place, see if your information will be protected.
    • If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site.
    • If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected
  • Avoid Phishing Emails.
    • Don't open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers.
    • Opening a file from someone you don't know could expose your system to a computer virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information you type
  • Protect yourself. 
    • Use firewall software to protect computer information.
    • Be sure to keep virus and spyware software updates and current