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P2P payments

P2P payments

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Report Fraud 

What To Do if You Sent Money to a Scammer - If you find unauthorized payments or think you paid a scammer, here’s how to report it to the mobile payment app.
  • Cash App. Cash App recommends chatting through their app for the fastest service. To do so, open the app, go to your profile, and choose Support. You can also get help through or by calling 1 (800) 969-1940.
  • Venmo. Venmo recommends chatting through their app for the fastest service. To do so, open the app, go to your profile, and choose Get Help. You can also email Venmo through their contact form or call them at 1 (855) 812-4430.
  • PayPal. Report it online through PayPal’s Resolution Center or call PayPal at 1 (888) 221-1161.
  • Zelle.  If you are enrolled in Zelle with a participating financial institution, you must reach out to their customer support team. If you are enrolled with the Zelle app and found an unauthorized transaction, please call them directly at 1-844-428-8542.
  • Google Pay
  • Apple Pay Cash
  • Square Cash

Safety Tips

  • Pay and receive money only with people you know. Using mobile payment services with family, friends, and others you know and trust is the safest way to protect your money. Don’t pay strangers with P2P.  Many peer-to-peer transactions are instantaneous and irreversible.  Scammers try to get you to pay them in many different ways - including by sending money online - so make sure you know to who you're sending money.  If you use the service to receive money from someone you don’t know personally - maybe as payment for tickets to a concert or a game, or for an item you're selling - transfer the money to your bank account and make sure the money is there before you send any goods. Scammers use mobile payment services to trick people into sending money or merchandise without holding up their end of the deal. For example, a scammer may sell you concert or sports tickets but then never actually give them to you. Or a scammer might purchase an item from you, appear to send a payment, and then cancel it before it reaches your bank account. 
  • Consider having your friend send you a request for payment first.  If you're sending money to someone for the first time, ask that they send a "request" from their app if that service is available. This helps ensure that you’re sending funds to the right person for the right amount. If the payment app does not have a request for payment function, consider sending a small, test payment to the recipient to confirm it is the right person before sending larger amounts.
  • Add a PIN or two. Each platform should have a way to add and require a personal identification number to complete transactions. Set up your app to require a passcode, PIN, or fingerprint before making a payment  Most mobile payment apps allow you to set up a passcode, PIN, or fingerprint that you can use to authenticate yourself before making a payment. Setting up this feature helps to prevent anyone else that gets access to your mobile phone from making mobile payments from your account. In the event that your mobile phone is actually lost or stolen, be sure to notify your bank or payment provider. For added protection, set one up on your mobile device, too, so in case you ever lose your phone, it’s not exactly like you lost your wallet as well.
  • Confirm that you can find help if things go wrong. Some P2P apps make users resolve their own disputes. Others offer significant help to resolve issues. Before using any P2P service, search the app for customer service contacts and procedures so that you know where to go and what kind of help to expect.
  • Sign up for text or email alerts offered by your financial institution. Most banks and credit unions warn of suspicious activity on your account. Sign up for account alerts, and contact your bank immediately if you suspect unauthorized activity.
  • Opt in for notifications on every transaction. Some platforms do this automatically, but if yours doesn’t, dig into your settings so that you get emails or texts any time there’s a transaction on your account.
  • Be aware of phishing. One way fraudsters might try to access your account is by posing as your bank or a P2P company. They may try to contact you through emails, calls or texts. Avoid clicking links and sharing personal information. They may also claim you need to download another app or give them remote access to transfer money. Never give remote access to a third party.
  • Take your time. Try not to rush when you’re using a P2P app to send money. If someone is pushing you to act quickly, it could be a red flag.
  • Use a protected payment source.  Link a credit or debit card when using peer-to-peer payment services so if your money is misdirected, you can have the error resolved by federal law. If you use funds kept in the P2P account, you are subject to state laws and the provider’s own policies, which can vary. It’s advisable to limit yourself to just one credit or debit card. Having multiple payment methods on a single account can make you a more lucrative target for fraudsters.
  • Don't make errors. A simple mistype can send money to the wrong person or in the wrong amount. Always double-check the amount you entered and the person you selected to pay. Most payment apps use a username, phone number, or email address to identify payment recipients. If you mistype a recipient’s email address, phone number, or name, the money could go to the wrong person. Ask your recipient to be sure he or she has registered in the app with the information you intend to use to send them money.
  • Security and user experience: The service should be easy to use and understand, and be secure. Most well-known platforms have good security in place, but you should still err on the side of caution. Avoid apps that have bad customer ratings and bad histories with data breaches.  Peer-to-peer payment systems require access to your financial information, so check your account settings to see if you can enable additional security measures that aren’t on by default. Consider turning on multi-factor authentication, requiring a PIN, or using fingerprint recognition like Touch ID.  Some cybercriminals may try to leverage usernames and passwords stolen in data breaches or purchased on the dark web to log into P2P apps.
  • Protect your passwords: Use different passwords for P2P apps and other sites, make them complex and change them often.
  • Don’t use P2P services for business purposes. Most apps' terms of service prohibit commercial use, such as using the P2P service to get paid for selling goods or services. Look instead for a payment app specifically meant for business users, such as Square Cash for Business, or PayPal.  Read the terms of service if you’re not sure if these kinds of transactions are permitted on the service you use.
  • Social Sharing. Some systems or apps might share information about your transactions on social media. Check social media permissions or settings - some may be set to share your information with everyone by default. Adjust your settings based on what you’re comfortable sharing.  Also, avoid sharing your location, home address, phone number, and other personal information across social media.  And ignore friend requests from people you don’t know.
  • Keep your app up to date. Hackers exploit security vulnerabilities sometimes faster than the security pros can plug them. If you have old software, you’re missing the latest protections. Make sure you have auto-updates turned on for your device across the board.
  • Be safe on public Wi-Fi. Public networks make it easy to connect on the go - and to save data on your monthly phone bill. But the Wi-Fi at places like your local coffee shop or library might not be secure.
  • Don’t leave money in your payment account.  If you’ve got money left in your payment account, it’s advisable to either spend it or transfer it to an account that you have with a financial institution. Money left in your account is easy pickings for fraudsters, so keeping it somewhere safe is important. Unlike with a financial institution, money left with these apps is uninsured and in most cases does not earn interest.

P2P fraud vs. P2P scams

The terms scam and fraud are often used to mean the same thing. But there’s a difference with p2p payments.

In general, fraud happens when someone accesses or uses your account without your permission. Scams happen if you were tricked, but you were still the one who approved a payment. Basically, fraud involves unauthorized transactions. Scams involve authorized transactions.

The difference is important because the same protections aren’t available if a transaction is authorized. That means there may not be much that can be done to get your money back. Even if it was a scam or a simple mistake.

Examples of P2P scams:

  • Seller scam.  Seller scams may start with offers for tickets, marked-down merchandise, etc. It could be anything. A fraudster may place a false online ad for merchandise, and after you pay for the merchandise through a P2P payment service, the fraudster keeps the money and never actually sends you what you purchased.
  • Text message scam.  You receive a text message regarding a recent charge on your debit card, and it asks you to verify the transaction. You reply that you don’t recognize the charge in question. You then receive a phone call from what appears to be your financial institution's 800 number, and someone claiming to be an employee requests you verify your account information, including your online credentials and a texted verification code. If you provide the information, the fraudster will then use it to log in to your account and use the linked P2P payment service feature to transfer funds.
  • Employment scam. You are hired for a job and receive a fraudulent check from the 'employer'. You are told by the "employer" to deposit the funds using a mobile check deposit and to transfer the funds out using a P2P payment service. By the time the check bounces, the funds are already gone.
  • Mystery money. With this scam, a scammer "accidentally" sends you money, then asks you to send them the money back. The problem is: the scammer added the money to their account using a stolen credit card or bank account, so Venmo (or whichever P2P you used) will flag the transaction as fraud eventually. Then, Venmo will take those funds out of your account, or, if you’ve already sent the money back to the sender, hold you responsible for that amount (and potentially block your account too).
  • Apple Pay or Samsung Pay activation scam. A scammer will send a text message or an email with a code asking you to activate Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. Once this text message is received, the scammer will guide you to provide them with the code which gives access to your Apple Pay or Samsung Pay account. 

Examples of P2P fraud:

  • Unauthorized electronic fund transfers: If money leaves your account and you weren’t the person to send it, it might be what’s known as an unauthorized electronic fund transfer. This fraud can be the result of a hacked account, a compromised card number, or a stolen device. Or it could be that someone accessed your account through a phishing scheme.

What happens in a Zelle scam?

Most of the reported Zelle scams consist of pure social engineering: manipulating people with fraudulent information and scare tactics. Scammers use false claims and representations to get people to unknowingly authorize money transfers.

A common scam involves an email or text message asking a user to confirm a large, fake Zelle payment. When the user replies that they didn't authorize the transfer, the scammer follows up with a phone call pretending to represent the bank and spoofing the financial institution's phone number. They walk the caller through bogus instructions on how to reverse the unauthorized claims that instead actually transfer money to the criminals.

Another popular scam starts with a message claiming that your bank account has been compromised and that you need to take action immediately to resolve the problem. If you respond, the fraudsters follow up with a phone call, pretending to be your bank and guiding you through the process of transferring money.

These kinds of transactions are usually not permitted with P2P payments:

  • Pharmaceuticals and other controlled substances;
  • Illegal drugs;
  • Drug paraphernalia;
  • Firearms, ammunition, or other weapons;
  • Sexually oriented activities or materials;
  • Pornography;
  • Obscene or offensive activities or materials;
  • Materials or activities that promote intolerance, violence, or hate;
  • Ponzi or pyramid schemes;
  • Illegal gambling, gaming, lotteries, or sweepstakes;
  • Court-ordered alimony or child support payments;
  • Traveler’s checks, money orders, equities, annuities, or currencies, including digital currencies, such as bitcoins;
  • Counterfeit materials;
  • Infringement on the copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret, or other intellectual property rights of Zelle®, a Network Financial Institution, another User or any other third party;
  • Terrorist funding;
  • Fraud;
  • Scams;
  • Money laundering; or
  • Any other illegal activity or unlawful purpose.

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