Consumer Investigations

Lowcountry woman's account drained through popular payment sharing app

The new verb for paying someone back is to “venmo” them.

Venmo app users can send and receive money for everything from rent to babysitting without the need for cash. But one Lowcountry woman says scammers drained hundreds of dollars from her bank account through the money sharing app.  She was left without money for rent and bills.  Her bank said it could take weeks to investigate with no guarantee her money would be recovered.

Venmo makes sending and receiving money easy.  For Shannon Cleary, it’s the easiest way her clients pay for services.  Shannon sells fitness programs online.

 

She thought the Venmo method was working, until she tried to buy herself dinner on November 15.

 

“My debit card got denied, which never happens,” Shannon explained to News 2’s Rebecca Collett.

 

When she logged into her bank account, she discovered 18 separate hits from Venmo. Her checking account was empty and overdrawn more than $1400.  Her bank told it could be weeks before the money was restored, if at all.

“That affects me paying my bills, which affects my credit,” she explained.  “They should have caught this.”

Once News 2 called Shannon’s bank, her funds were restored and over draft fees were dropped while the bank investigated the fraud. In a statement a spokesman for TB Bank told News 2:

 "We take the security of our customers' accounts and personal information very seriously.”

A spokesperson at Venmo explained there is no way to determine how the account information was breached. It’s most likely Shannon’s financial information was compromised then added to a different Venmo account. 

“Venmo and your bank both have security features in place to stop anyone but you from using your bank account or cards,” the company wrote in an apology to Shannon once News 2 brought the fraud to their attention.
 

Since the bank and Venmo missed the fraud, News 2 wanted to know what users can do to protect themselves.

Meredith Siemens, Vice President of Public Relations & Community Outreach, says you’re your best account guardian.

“Check your recent transactions at least once a day and immediately contact your financial institution about any purchases you don't recognize,” she explained. “That can be a lot, but it maintains your own safety and security.”

She also recommends checking with your bank about opt-in tools to monitor your spending.

 “Turn on any alerts or features that your bank or credit union offers that let you know when transactions are made or unusual activity is suspected. Our members have access to CardValet, which is an app on your phone that lets you turn your card off and on and monitor/control transactions,” she explained.

According to Venmo’s website, Venmo “does not offer buyer or seller protection” and Venmo “is designed for payments between friends and people who trust each other.”

Venmo suffered millions of dollars in fraud this year.  In the first three months of 2018, the company reported a loss of about $40 million.  The company responded by blacklisting tens of thousands of users deemed suspicious.

“When introducing new features, it is not unusual to see short periods of elevated losses. In Q1 of 2018, Venmo had multiple new features that were introduced and received exceptional customer demand. As loss patterns emerged, the Venmo team quickly updated the new features to prevent losses and protect customers,” a company spokesperson explained.

South Carolina Federal Credit Union offered these tips to protect your account:

 - Give mobile wallets a try: Making payments using mobile wallets apps are not only convenient, but they can add more layers of payment card security when shopping in stores.

 

-          When online shopping, make sure you're purchasing from a secure website. A website should contain https in its URL; if it doesn't, don't enter your payment information.

 

-          Don't shop online when you're using a public WiFi connection. Do your shopping at home using your personal, password-protected WiFi.


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