NBC4 I-Team

Online Scammers Are Using Social Media and Venmo to Target Victims

The scam appears on Instagram's platform, and hooks victims by telling them they've won $750 in a Venmo giveaway. Those who click on it learn a costly lesson.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Social media use and online shopping have both skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, with phones, tablets and devices serving as our way out when we couldn't physically go outside.

But now, an online scam is using the logo of popular mobile payment app Venmo as bait on social media, as scammers use some of the digital content and payment features we utilize as their way inside your wallet.

Steve McFarland of the Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles says this is just one example of scams making the rounds now.

"Now all of a sudden, you’re seeing some really realistic advertising, some really realistic solicitations for you to click on scams," McFarland said. "So it’s a new way, a new vehicle for scammers to reach out."

The scam appears on Instagram's platform, and hooks victims by telling them they've won $750 in a Venmo giveaway. Those who click on it learn a costly lesson, McFarland says.

"You have to pay an agency fee or supply some information," McFarland said. "And sometimes they’re asking for gift cards, they need you to wire funds or even Venmo funds to get your Venmo prize, which doesn’t make sense."

Similar scams are also popping up in text messages, promising cash for taking a Venmo survey.

"The scammers are developing artwork, logos, terms and phrases and technology to make it look like they are legitimate," McFarland said.

NBC4's I-Team reached out to Venmo. The company is aware its branding and name are being used in some online scams.

"The security of customers and their account information is always a top priority," Venmo said in an email to the I-Team. "When we become aware of phishing scams, we proactively work with law enforcement agencies and industry partners as well as use our own systems to mitigate the issue.”

The company added that it only contacts people using its @venmo verified Instagram account.

Venmo urged anyone who feels like they've been targeted for a scam to contact Venmo customer service, and report the scam to police.

The I-Team has been talking with social media platforms, online payment apps, online retailers and even job hunting sites.

Every single one of them is battling fraudulent postings every day, and it is impossible to flag them or remove them all immediately.

McFarland says it's getting harder and harder to spot and stop online scammers. The tougher times get for people financially, the more sophisticated the schemes have become.

"It’s becoming a way to bring in unsuspecting victims to click and maybe find some quick cash," he said.

To protect yourself, only click on messages from known or solicited sources.

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