Users seek tips after scam targets payment apps like Venmo and Cash App

Published: Mar. 20, 2019 at 5:32 PM EDT
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(03/20/19) - With apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Cash App, it's never been easier to send and receive money. For hackers, it's also never been easier to deplete your funds and leave you with nothing.

The scam seems innocent.

A stranger asks for your phone claiming their battery died or they left theirs at home.They'll say the person didn't answer, and they need to send a text. It might look like texting, but police departments across the nation warn that they might be actually transferring your money into their own account.

We all want to be good neighbors and help one another, but if someone you don't know asks to borrow your phone, the response is simple.

"No is a full sentence. Sorry. It's low on battery. Whatever. However you want to do it," Doug Witten said. Witten is a Cyber Defense Program Director at Baker College Flint.

Most people we asked said they would not let a stranger use their phone, but that doesn't mean you're free from being hacked.

"There's enough stuff on social media, and we normally give it for free: where we go on vacations, our pets, our kids, anniversaries. Social media is perfect for that. It's a fertile ground for looking up information," Witten said.

If information is leaked and the app is made vulnerable, teams are typically quick to remedy the damage. You might see these come through as a software update, also known as patches.

"Keep up to date to those patches. Those patches are there for a specific reason. Somebody had found some way to get into something," Witten said.

For extra protection, Witten also suggests linking your account to a credit card rather than your debit card.

"If they're using a debit card, you basically have a fast lane right to your account. With a credit card, the banking companies can actually back those charges out," Witten said.

If that still makes you nervous, Jacob Hoss at Computer Junkies has an even trickier move.

"If you buy a prepaid debit card, and the money that's on there is what you know you're going to spend, then there's no chance of anybody actually spending any more money than you want them too. It's just more secure," Hoss said.

For Venmo users, the Touch ID & PIN is optional, and the default is off.

When it's turned on, it's an added step to make it more difficult for hackers. When choosing a PIN, do not use all zeroes, your son or daughter's birthday, or your own birthday.