Sending cash with an app means you can lose that money just as quickly

PITTSBURGH — A friendly game of golf may end with a little money changing hands, which is often done using apps like Venmo.

Phil Tsao didn’t know the people in his golf group very well, so he decided to pay for the round via the Venmo money app. He wrote out the names of the players, with a note in the Venmo transaction details that the money was for greens fees.

However, Venmo intercepted the deal, then asked Phil for the date of birth of one of his golf partners.

“They’re still holding it at this point saying, you know what — they’re reviewing it. But it’s already six months,” said Tsao. “Actually, I’m thinking this is unjust, actually to compel me to provide somebody else’s information which I don’t have, and I am incapable of providing.”

Tsao was frustrated, but Alicia Thompson is furious. She was scammed out of $2,500 when trying to reach Cash App over the phone. The company doesn’t have a customer service number.

“I felt violated. It’s not fair,” Thompson said, “and it’s not fair to not be able to speak to someone when using their app.”

Alisia’s sister had issues with the app, so she searched the web and found a customer service phone number, but it was fake. A scammer answered the phone and said he needed another customer to help fix the account. Thompson got that call.

“He said there’s numbers that (are) going to come up on your phone. He said you have to unclick all transactions,” Thompson said.

The scammer asked her to download a program and run a “demo” transferring funds. Her money was gone in a matter of minutes.

“I got off the phone and all of a sudden I get ... a notification from my bank. My bank tells me that $1,400 dollars came out of my account. And then turn around, $1,100 comes out of my account. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Cash App won’t refund the money.

“People looking for help often automatically turn to the internet trying to find a support phone number. People think they’re calling a legitimate company representative, but they’re really contacting a scammer who just posted a phony phone number online,” said Caitlin Driscoll of the Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania.

Driscoll said customers should look for support numbers and emails on a company’s website to ensure they are real. Or, if you’re having a problem with mobile transactions, call the Better Business Bureau.

“Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle are all responsive to BBB complaints. They’ve all resolved every complaint filed through the Better Business Bureau up to this point,” Driscoll said.

A few keys in protecting yourself:

  • Learn how a company communicates with its customers.
  • Check news reports to see how scammers have used the company’s name to steal from victims.
  • Stay away from large transactions on these apps.