How to Stay Safe on Money Transfer Apps

A person holds a phone while looking at the zelle app.

Getty Images and Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

We reside in an age of mobile payment apps like Venmo, PayPal, Cash App and, the most popular among all, Zelle. Launched in 2017, Zelle has actually ended up being the biggest cash transfer app in America, and it’s not even close any longer.

But now Zelle is coming under fire for the method it deals with rip-offs on its app — or the method it doesn’t deal with rip-offs.

Complaints about scams and rip-offs on the payment app are rising, however the huge banks that run Zelle are declining to repay scammed clients, according to a brand-new report from the workplace of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

We’ve got some practical ideas for how to keep your cash safe on Zelle, Venmo, Cash App — all the popular peer-to-peer payment services.

Tens of Thousands of Scams

Warren, D-Massachusetts, is referred to as an intense critic of America’s huge banks and their organization practices. Her report points out information from 4 banks — Bank of America, PNC Bank, Truist and U.S. Bank — that reported almost 193,000 Zelle scams and fraud cases jointly worth $214 million in 2021 and the very first half of 2022.

These were cases in which Zelle users stated they were deceived into paying. Here’s the kicker: Those banks compensated clients in just about 3,500 out of 193,000 cases, the report stated.

Zelle: It’s Because We’re So Big

Zelle’s owner, Early Warning Services, states the increase in scams grievances is taking place just because Zelle has actually ended up being way more popular recently: “Zelle usage has grown significantly since its launch, from 247 million transactions in 2017 to 1.8 billion in 2021, while the proportion of fraud and scams has steadily decreased.”

Zelle is run by a union of 7 of the nation’s greatest banks: Bank of America, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Financial, Truist, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.

Is It Fraud or Is It a Scam? What’s the Difference?

Banks tend to draw a difference in between “scams” — when a client gets deceived into sending out cash to a trickster — and “fraud,” when a burglar gets access to a client’s account and siphons off cash.

Banks generally don’t repay clients who state they got scammed since they can’t inform which cases are genuine. But they’re expected to compensate clients who had actually cash taken through an electronic transfer they didn’t license — like if somebody swipes your charge card and purchases things with it.

Warren is implicating banks of flouting the law by not paying back clients they’re expected to pay back. In cases in which it was clear that cash really got gotten of users’ accounts without permission, just 47% of the cash got reimbursed, her report stated.

For what it’s worth, moving cash through mobile phone app is safe the majority of the time. When The Penny Hoarder evaluated cash transfer apps, we provided Zelle a respectable evaluation.

How to Protect Yourself on Payment Apps

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is taking a look at providing brand-new policies needing banks to repay clients for more cases of scams and rip-offs.

In the meantime, here are some ideas on how to safeguard yourself when utilizing a cash transfer app. The Federal Trade Commission advises the following:

  • Don’t send out a payment to declare a reward or gather sweepstakes payouts.
  • Don’t provide your account qualifications to anybody who contacts you.
  • Protect your account with multifactor authentication or a PIN.
  • Before you send payments, confirm the recipient’s details to ensure you’re sending out cash to the best individual.
  • If you get an unforeseen ask for cash from somebody you acknowledge, speak to them to ensure it’s actually from them — and not a hacker who got access to their account.

What to Do if You Sent Money to a Scammer

Here’s The Penny Hoarder’s detailed guide for what to do if you’ve been scammed. And here’s the essence:

  • Lock down your checking account and charge card.
  • Contact the 3 significant credit bureaus.
  • Change your passwords.
  • Report the criminal offense to your regional authorities department, state regulators and the FBI.

Reporting Fraud to Your Payment App

And lastly, if you discover unapproved payments or believe you paid a fraudster, here’s how to report it to the mobile payment app.

Zelle. Report it here:

Cash App. Cash App advises talking through its app for the fastest service. To do so, open the app, go to your profile and select Support. You can likewise get assist through or by calling 1 (800) 969-1940.

Venmo. Venmo advises talking through its app for the fastest service. To do so, open the app, go to your profile and select Get Help. You can likewise email Venmo through its contact kind or call 1 (855) 812-4430.

PayPal. Report it online through PayPal’s Resolution Center or call PayPal at 1 (888) 221-1161.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior author at The Penny Hoarder.


A news media journalist always on the go, I've been published in major publications including VICE, The Atlantic, and TIME.

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