We all know this tendency — if some app gets popular, hackers quickly figure out how to fool its users. So it was only a question of time when malefactors get their hands on peer-to-peer mobile payment services. We had PayPal for quite a while, and there were some scams connected to it. But when Venmo became so popular, we saw a spike of malicious activity aimed at its users.

The good news is that you can protect yourself rather easily. All you need to do is to stay attentive to the details. In this article, we will talk about the most common scams and things you can do to stay safe.

Hackers can reverse-charge your card

That’s right, they can charge your card when you’re selling something online — for example, on Craigslist. A malefactor pretends to be a person that wants to buy whatever you’re selling. They offer a Venmo payment, and you agree to it. You receive a payment, you send them the sold item. Everything seems fine, but a couple of days later your bank card gets charged for the same amount a buyer paid you for that item — the credit card company has reversed the transaction because it was made with a stolen card.

When selling things online, we should remember that Venmo is an app tailored for friends and families that want to send money to each other. It’s better to use Paypal in this case because this service has an established procedure for such a situation and usually helps the seller to get their money back.

Another solution would be to sell items online either for cash or a wire transfer. Such an approach will be safer despite being less convenient.

Not all charities are genuine

Charities are quite an easy way for malefactors to scam people since most of us are eager to help those who are less fortunate. And we’re talking big money here — in 2019, individuals and organizations in the United States donated almost half a trillion dollars. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that hackers want to bite something off this pie.

Another thing that’s so attractive to scammers when it comes to charities is that it’s easy to pretend to be a real organization that gathers donations. Especially during some crises such as a war, a natural disaster, and so on. That’s why there is a spike in fake charities when something bad happens. All malefactors need to do is to establish a website where they will tell what they’re gathering money for — they just need to put work into the site to make it informative and genuine-looking. And then they can advertise it through Google or social media to get attention. Even if you make a one-time donation, hackers still will get a profit.

If you receive a message or an email or see an advertisement about some charity, check it before actually donating. You can use Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to check the credentials of a charity. These services test if a certain non-profit organization is valid. Also, if you google the name of that charity and nothing or almost nothing comes up — most likely you’re dealing with scammers.

Phishing is here, too

Phishing is a to-go method for malefactors as victims usually fall easily for it. With mobile payment apps, it works like this — you receive an SMS with a link and an offer to receive some financial benefit. If you click a link, you will see a page that’s very similar to what a page of your payment app would look like. On that page, you’ll have to enter personal information to get that financial benefit mentioned in the message. Usually, it’s a credit card number or some other data that can be used for impersonating you to make transactions.

Such spam can arrive through your email, too. The approach would be the same. Malefactors will either impersonate a person you know or your payment service.

If you receive an offer that sounds too good, most likely it’s a scam. Remember to check an email address of a sender if you received a fake email and to check the URL included in the message — phishing websites usually imitate real ones. For example, malefactors would write “vvebsite” instead of “website”. That’s a detail one can notice only after looking closely at the URL.

You got paid more than needed

Using this approach, malefactors send you way more money than needed “by accident”. For example, you were selling something online for $300 and the buyer sent you $3000. It’s easy to believe that a person made a mistake by adding another zero. So they will ask you to send back the difference.

You surely do that because you believe that a person made a mistake. Then you ship the item and everything seems to be okay. But in a couple of days, just like in the case with reverse payments, you realize that the money is gone — a malefactor used a fraudulent payment method. So now you don’t have both your sold item and a large sum of money.

While such a mistake — adding a zero — seems easy to make, in reality, people tend to be very careful when they send money to someone they don’t know. So if you received a huge payment “by mistake”, just cancel it and don’t make any transfers to or from your bank account for this person.

More tips that will protect you from scammers

Besides being careful you can also:

  • Use multi-factor authentication for better protection
  • Use the iNinja VPN app to hide your IP address thus safeguarding yourself even better. The iNinja free VPN for Android and iOS will keep your activity secure without interfering with your internet speed
  • Make sure your passwords are strong. You can use a password manager so that it can remember all the complex combinations for you.